Page 5346 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

the electoral system. Such refinements include the entrenchment of the key elements of the electoral system and enhancements to the system of Robson rotation. The bill I place before the Assembly today is focused on the campaigning process rather than the mechanics of voting, counting and determining the results of the election. But it is no less important for that.

I contend that the ACT has the finest electoral system in Australia and perhaps the world. In terms of its fundamental operational mechanics, however, even the finest electoral system cannot guarantee equality of access to the electoral process or to information about parties and candidates. We have already successfully introduced reforms to government agencies’ advertising in the Government Agencies (Campaign Advertising) Act 2009 to tighten controls on the capacity of governments to use agencies’ advertising improperly to promote the government party or parties in the lead-up to an election.

The next priority concerns campaign finance. This Assembly recognised this by referring the question to the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety, which I chair, a referral that received unanimous support from all groups in the Assembly. In fact, this subject has attracted attention in a number of Australian jurisdictions over the past few years, with legislation introduced into the commonwealth parliament in 2010, which is yet to pass. Legislation has, however, passed in Queensland and New South Wales, which saw the first operation of its legislation this year. These acts have been drawn on in developing the committee’s recommendations and in drafting the bill that I present today.

It is important to note that campaign finance reform is not a new idea in Australia. Public funding and disclosure provisions are part of the standard model across Australian jurisdictions. But there is an increasing recognition that these alone do not provide sufficient protection in relation to campaign financing. In this context, I think we all have in mind the sort of election that we do not want to see in the ACT. It is particularly pertinent today with the arrival of the US President that we reflect on the sorts of elections that we do not want to have. The US presidential race is a standout example of that.

The risks of this model are not just that the process is confined to the fabulously rich or that politics is reduced to simplistic slogans and attack ads on high rotation. An obvious danger is straightforward policy purchasing. In the political arms race there will be high rollers prepared to put up the big bucks—for any party—but in general these are not disinterested benefactors, but people who are looking for influence.

Perhaps another less obvious risk is that politics becomes about money. Politicians end up spending all their time and effort in fundraising, potentially throughout a term of government, with little time left for policy development or administration. This may be a greater risk for us than it is in the United States. The ACT has fewer resources than any other Australian jurisdiction to spread across administration and consultation already without adding a massive fundraising burden.

The report of the justice and community safety committee which formed the basis of this legislation quoted the manager of a successful US presidential campaign. He said:

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video