Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 8 May 2008) . . Page.. 1723 ..
Minister for Planning is a member of a political party, the developer needs to advise that a donation has been made to the party. In the majority of cases, the minister will be a member of a party, and probably the government; but this amendment also covers those situations where in a minority government the minister may not be a member of the ruling party or any party at all.
I also agree that often the minister has very little input into planning decisions, and therefore these disclosure requirements may seem unnecessary. However, as the ICAC paper comments, political donations at the ministerial level have the capacity to create perceptions of undue influence in planning decisions and, while ACTPLA is an independent authority, the minister can give direction and does work closely with it, as should be the case. The paper states:
The Commission does not suggest that ministerial planning power is inherently conducive to corruption, and indeed, as noted in Chapter 3, the ministerial power can in certain circumstances be a safeguard against potential corrupt conduct …
The minister, however, should not be the only safeguard, and the public should be able to see, through the disclosure, whether the minister is being unduly influenced by the source and size of political donations. Within New South Wales, the state government considered the issue of political donations at the local level as potentially giving rise to a conflict of interest. The ACT does not have this local level and, therefore, the minister and/or their party are the next obvious place for public disclosure to take place.
If my amendment is passed, we should also ensure that changes are made to the forms and paperwork to require a person or company that has made a political donation to a party or individual to disclose that fact on their development application. As I have mentioned, this amendment, while inspired by New South Wales, has its place in the ACT, to give greater transparency and to nip any potential corruption risks in the bud.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (11.33): This amendment is intended to require a person making a development application to submit a disclosure return to the Electoral Commissioner within two weeks of submitting their application if the person has made a gift in the last 12 months to the planning minister or the minister’s party.
The government does not intend to support this proposal, for two reasons. First of all, the proposal, as Dr Foskey herself concedes, is developed in the context of local government activity where councillors, that is elected representatives, have the direct authority and ability to approve, and are required to approve, all development applications at a local council level.
Dr Foskey’s amendment does not take account of the fact that in the ACT we have a different framework for the approval of development applications. With a very small number of exceptions, development applications are approved by the ACT Planning and Land Authority and by the Chief Planning Executive as the authority. Therefore, there is an arm’s length process for determining development applications separate from elected representatives. Indeed, this is a best practice model, a model that is