Tuesday, April 6, 2021
Politics

Tasmanian government releases report into state’s political donation laws

Tasmanian government releases report into state's political donation laws
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The Tasmanian Government has moved towards toughening the state’s electoral laws, three years after an election that allowed the origins of millions of dollars in political donations to remain secret.

Tasmania has the weakest political donation laws in the country, with only donations above $14,300 required to be declared.

Analysis by Tasmania’s Institute for Social Change in 2019 found just 20 per cent of $25 million donated to Tasmanian political parties in the past decade had been publicly disclosed.

Shortly after the 2018 election, which was dominated by debate over poker machines and donations from hospitality groups to the Liberal Party, the Tasmanian Government announced a review of the state’s Electoral Act.

The final report from that review has now been released.

It includes 11 recommendations — all of which the government has said it supports in-principle.

They include setting a threshold for disclosing political donations that is more in line with other states, setting better timeframes for disclosing donations quickly, and requiring third parties that participate in electioneering to abide by the same rules.

In releasing the report, Premier Peter Gutwein detailed the Tasmanian Government’s position on making amendments to the laws, but further work on the specifics still needs to be done.

Proposed changes include:

  • Reducing the disclosure threshold to between $1,000 and $5,000
  • Donations will need to be disclosed at least six-monthly, and more often during an election campaign
  • Foreign and anonymous donations over a certain threshold will be banned

The introduction of expenditure caps for campaigns would be considered at a later stage, due to “insufficient evidence” they were needed.

Premier Peter Gutwein says the government supports the 11 recommendations “in-principle”.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Mr Gutwein said the changes would come at a cost for candidates, due to the expectation people who face having their political leanings made public may choose to stop making voluntary donations.

He said that meant some public funding of election campaigns would be needed, estimated to be the equivalent of between $2 and $8 per vote, but accepted that would be a “challenging concept” for some Tasmanians.

Mr Gutwein said it was important to note the changes were not being driven by recommendations from a corruption watchdog.

“There is no evidence of corruption, systemic or otherwise, in terms of the electoral system in Tasmania,” Mr Gutwein said.

The proposed changes would be limited to Tasmania’s House of Assembly.

The government plans to release legislation for consultation after Easter and will table it prior to Parliament’s winter break.



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