Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 599 ..
Electoral Amendment Bill 2002
Mr Tucker , pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory memorandum.
Title read by Clerk.
MS TUCKER (10.49): I move:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
This bill imposes greater disclosure requirements on parties and MLAs regarding their electoral funding and expenditure. The bill's key amendment is to expand the range of donations that have to be counted for determining whether the details of the donor and amount donated must be disclosed to the Electoral Commissioner in the annual return of a party or MLA.
At present, the Electoral Act requires that details of donations, to a party or MLA, from a particular individual or organisation, which total more than $1,500 in a financial year, must be disclosed in their annual return. These returns are subsequently made available for public inspection so we can see who has made big donations to the parties. However, for some years, there was a major loophole in this requirement. Individual donations from a person or organisation of less than $500 did not have to be taken into account in determining whether the $1,500 threshold for disclosure had been reached.
Therefore, a person who gave, say, four donations of $400 over a year would not have their identity disclosed, even though they had donated a total of $1,600. As an extreme example, a person could make a donation to a party of just under the threshold-say $499-each day for a whole year. The total amount, of some $182,000, would never have to be identified in the party's return.
We can see the effect of this loophole in the actual party returns. For example, the Liberal Party's 2000-01 return shows receipts of $283,000, although only $171,000 was rent from their building. Presumably, the other $112,000 is donations, but only one specific donation over $2,000 is identified. Who knows where the rest of the money came from?
The associated entity of the Liberal Party, the 250 Club, received $31,000 in 2000-01, but there were no donations over $1,500 identified. Who knows where this money came from.
The ALP is a little more open in its return. It received some $534,000 in 2000-01, but nearly half of this-some $234,000-was from the Canberra Labor Club. Of the remaining $300,000, only half was from 34 identified individuals and organisations-mainly branches, unions and elected members. Who knows where the other $150,000 came from.
The inspiration for this bill came from the efforts of former member Michael Moore to bring more public accountability and transparency to the donations received by political parties. Mr Moore put up a private members bill in the last Assembly to reduce the $500 exclusion level to $100. There was an extra condition that the $100 had to be received at