Page 2775 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 29 June 2011

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I would make the point that we will only be debating this particular bill in principle and we will have the opportunity to consider the application and detail of the provisions at a later date. There is, however, a real need to ensure that the community is aware of the Assembly’s intention in this area. I think that point alone overcomes the argument that it is not necessary if we are not going to completely resolve the matter today.

The additional issue in relation to this particular matter is that Mr Smyth has said his legislation is in response to a rumour. The idea of the Assembly legislating on the basis of a rumour is certainly problematic. However, in this instance, rather than seeing it as responding to a rumour or in some way an endorsement of the rumour, the correct characterisation is that a legitimate concern has been highlighted and that concern exists in the absence of any rumour.

There does exist the real and not remote possibility that someone will act to the detriment of the community between now and the next sitting to frustrate the intention of the Assembly to reform the Electoral Act. It is entirely plausible that a donation may be made to any party because donors know reforms are coming and they want to get in before changes are made and act in a way that the Assembly would find unacceptable.

The concern will be raised that we are imposing a retrospective criminal sanction, and of course in some sense that will be the case in that the bill will apply from a date prior to the approval of the Assembly. However, it will not apply before everyone is made aware that the Assembly is intending to do so. Further, we can of course deal with this issue by providing that any money donated between last Wednesday and the date the bill is finally passed, in whatever form that ends up being, must be paid to the territory, as is the case with anonymous donations over $1,000 and no sanction applies to the individual concerned. This would achieve the intended purpose and overcome the concerns with retrospectivity.

The broader point is that between now and when we debate the detail we can certainly overcome these issues and ensure fairness in what we do. However, whilst that is achievable, that does not make it reasonable for us to say that we therefore do not need to address the bill today. We do need to do something about it to ensure the integrity of the reform process is respected.

I remind members that there is a sunset clause and we therefore will not be interfering with the broader campaign finance inquiry being conducted by the justice and community safety standing committee.

There are a range of reforms that have been contemplated in other jurisdictions which might also be appropriate here. The temporary measure proposed in the bill ensures that reforms come from a considered and objective place, without the additional pressure created by any problematic donations.

The proposal does respect the integrity of the committee process and there is a legitimate issue to be addressed. I stress that the legitimate concern exists in the

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