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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 600 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

a fund-raising event. It is accepted that, at such events, it is often hard to keep track of small donations.

The end result of Mr Moore's bill was that it would be very difficult for persons who donated a total of more than $1,500 in a year to avoid having themselves identified in the party's annual return.

Last year, the former Liberal government put up a bill which made a range of amendments to the Electoral Act. This included the reduction, from $500 to $100, of the threshold at which donations had to be counted. Presumably, this was at the instigation of Mr Moore in his role as minister in the Liberal government.

However, after the bill was tabled, the Liberals appeared to negotiate-or they did a deal-with the ALP. Jointly, they supported various amendments that protected their mutual interests against small parties and Independents. As part of this deal, the Liberals did a monumental backflip and put up an amendment to their own bill. This bill increased the threshold at which donations had to be counted from $500 to $1,500. This opened up an even bigger loophole. If a person gives a series of donations, each under $1,500, to a party, then the donor does not have to be identified-even though the total amount may be over $1,500.

Mr Moore and other members of the former crossbench, like myself, were very upset about the major parties doing this. Mr Moore attempted to reinsert his amendments into the bill. However, the ALP and the Liberals, in a rare show of solidarity, had the numbers to defeat the crossbench.

My bill today basically attempts to do what Mr Moore tried to do in that debate on the Electoral Act. My amendments are virtually the same as his. Mr Moore may be gone, but I want to let the major parties know that, as a representative of the Greens, I intend to take up what Mr Moore started, as a voice in the public interest, in wanting fairness in our electoral system. I want openness about where parties get their money from. I want to stop the rich and powerful from influencing political decisions through party donations.

Importantly, there is a perception in the community that this particular democratic issue is being properly handled by the elected representatives. The credibility of parliament generally is at stake in this particular debate. This is especially important now that the major parties have increased their numbers in the Assembly at the expense of the crossbench. I certainly do not want this Assembly to end up with the Tweedledum and Tweedledee politics that we find in other parliaments dominated by only two parties, where it is extremely difficult for smaller parties and Independents to break into their cosy club.

In assessing my bill, I hope the major parties put the public interest ahead of their party interests and support the fullest practical disclosure of large political donations.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stanhope ) adjourned to the next sitting.

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