Page 2778 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 29 June 2011

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corporations, unions, organisations and other contributors, personal candidate funding, and a range of other matters.

Why is it necessary to pre-empt that Assembly inquiry by enacting a piece of legislation that completely circumvents all the issues being looked at in that inquiry? Members opposite and members on the crossbench know what issues are at play here. But I will restate them for the benefit of the debate.

First of all, members know that there is a real and live question about the constitutionality of laws that attempt to prescribe the amount of money that can be donated to political organisations. Members know that it is a live legal question about whether or not the High Court would strike down such a law on the basis that it interfered with the implied right to political communication and political expression which the High Court has ruled sits within our constitutional framework.

Members know that that is a live and real question. They have not even come to an opinion on that question in their inquiry, but they think it is all right to pass a law today or agree in principle to a law today that strikes at the heart of that question: is this law constitutional?

The Greens talk about evidence; the Greens talk about taking a considered approach; the Greens talk about looking at the big picture. They are failing on all three counts today, because they know these issues are live questions and yet they are rushing to support in principle the passage of this law today.

Members should also be aware that the evidence that that inquiry has heard deals with the unintended consequences of passing laws that put caps on political donations, and what that might mean. The inquiry has heard evidence that would highlight that in jurisdictions where caps have been placed on donations to political parties, what occurs is that donations get given to third party organisations—political action committees, as they are called in the United States. The donation does not go to a political party; the donation goes to an organisation that is set up to campaign on a particular issue, which just happens to align with the political agenda of a particular political party or a political candidate.

So you end up getting donations to third party organisations such as “Support Light Rail in the ACT”, for example. So you will not have a donation to the Greens; you just have a donation to an organisation that advocates spending all of our money on light rail, which just happens to support and endorse Green candidates as part of that election campaign.

That is what happens when you put caps on political donations. And members know—including Ms Hunter, who sits on this inquiry—that these issues are live questions that need to be addressed. These issues have not been addressed in Mr Smyth’s bill, and it is another example of why this bill cannot be, and should not be, agreed to today.

There is another very concerning element with this bill. This bill proposes that a number of criminal offences be established and that those criminal offences have

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