Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 8 May 2008) . . Page.. 1716 ..
Again, there could have been the arguments that shortening the disclosure time would have put more pressure on the Electoral Commission at a time when it is managing the ACT election, which of course is its busiest period. It is, however, a reality that the uneven workload does result in the commission taking on a number of casual or short-term staff around election times and it is adequately resourced to do so. The actual work of these disclosures within eight weeks, instead of the current 16, is largely electronic, not particularly complex and I would be confident that, if this amendment were supported by the government, more resources could be found to assist the commission in completing the task in a timely manner.
The key point here is about declaring donations, where possible, ahead of the election whose result they seek to influence. Even the $1,000 donation can be very significant, especially to a small party or an independent who is going to need all the donations they can get. It is facile to argue that political donations ought to remain secret or that companies making political donations do not expect something for their money. In an open, transparent political process, the relationship between the donor and the candidate needs to be public and the information about it needs to be made available to people at election time, when they are most actively engaged with the political process.
Making the information available at a later time, whether it is $1,000, $1,500 or $10,000, merely provides the opportunity for politicians, political journalists, journalists and their ilk to express views and comment on or attack each other, but it avoids the obvious purpose of holding the parties and the donors to account at elections, the only time usually where that notion of accountability means anything concrete.
US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis put it best in 1933.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant and transparency is a powerful defence against the corruption of the political process.
Therefore we need not just to declare donations 16 weeks later; we need to declare them eight weeks later.
MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (11.02): I will be speaking briefly to the amendment. I do not have an issue with the lowering of the threshold to $1,000. Obviously the way in which the political parties work, of course, is that they channel funds into their party so that the relationship between the candidates or the members and the donors is more difficult to identify. That is probably the bigger issue, rather than the quantum. I would have been happy to support the heightened level of disclosure that Dr Foskey was advocating—that obviously will not happen as this amendment will be passed—but I do not think we should be afraid of transparency in reporting donations.
I think it is useful for the electorate to know before the election is held, rather than after, where the buckets of money come from for various flyers. I acknowledge that I had very substantial support in the last election. I am not ashamed of that. There are people I will not accept donations from. But I am happy to have things on the record