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senate vote 2020-09-02#12

Edited by mackay

on 2020-09-25 09:24:15


  • Bills — Electoral Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2020; in Committee
  • Electoral Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2020 - in Committee - Reform donation arrangements


  • <p class="speaker">Jacqui Lambie</p>
  • <p>by leave&#8212;I move Jacqui Lambie Network amendments (1) to (3) on sheet 8985 revised together:</p>
  • <p class="italic">(1) Schedule 1, item 2, page 3 (lines 11 and 12), omit the definition of federal purpose in subsection 287(1).</p>
  • The majority voted against [amendments]( introduced by Tasmanian Senator [Jacqui Lambie]( (Jacqui Lambie Network), which means they were unsuccessful.
  • While outlining the Greens Party's support for the bill, Queensland Senator [Larissa Waters]( (Greens) [explained some aspects of these amendments](
  • > *The Greens will be supporting this amendment which has a series of features within it. It lowers the disclosure threshold, which we support, as we've discussed already on this bill ... my understanding is that this amendment would impose a threshold of disclosure of $2,500, but that's a damn sight less than $14,300. I understand that this now also has some changes to the time frame for disclosure. As I said earlier today, at the minute you need to disclose only once a year, on 1 February, and because of the time lag between calendar years and financial years it can be up to 19 months before it's put in the public domain as to which donor donated to which political party. That is so far beneath what is a transparent and accountable approach to disclosure ... These amendments would have, on my reading of them, a six-month disclosure time frame—which, again, is not quite as rigorous as the Greens would like, but it is still better than the current rules. So, on that basis, we support that element, because it's an improvement.*
  • >
  • > *I understand that there are also some provisions in this amendment that go to anonymous donations. They've long been discussed, because it's a balance between the administrative burden we place on donors and political parties and the need for the public to know who's paying whom. There have long been recommendations for a cap of between $50 and $500 on anonymous donations. And when I say 'anonymous', the example often used is buying a raffle ticket at a party function, so it's not anything that's necessarily nefarious, as 'anonymous' might imply; it's merely those smaller amounts of casual support that many people express and that aren't of a significant amount that would exert an undue influence.*
  • >
  • > *Again, my understanding of these amendments is that they lower that threshold to $500. The Greens would like to see it lower than that. We've pegged it at $50 but, on the basis that this proposed threshold is at least an improvement on our current laws, we will be supporting that as well.*
  • <p class="italic">(2) Schedule 1, item 2, page 3 (lines 23 to 27), omit the definition of regulated entity in subsection 287(1).</p>
  • <p>We also oppose items 25 to 27 and 34 of schedule 1 in the following terms:</p>
  • <p class="italic">(4) Schedule 1, items 25 to 27, page 7 (line 27) to page 10 (line 18), to be opposed.</p>
  • <p class="italic">(5) Schedule 1, item 34, page 11 (lines 23 to 31), subitems (2) and (3), to be opposed.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Mathias Cormann</p>
  • <p>The government oppose these amendments. The government amendments comprehensively and fairly deal with the interactions between Commonwealth, state and territory laws. These amendments would remove those changes from the bill, allowing state and territory laws to apply to federal donations at the same time as Commonwealth laws applied, hence defeating the entire purpose of the legislation in front of the Senate. If the government's amendments had not been made there would be ambiguity for regulated entities. Duplication of laws in relation to the same financial transactions would be unnecessary where a donation was spent on federal electoral purposes only, so a double-up of legal obligations would cause confusion and uncertainty. Uncertainty would continue to mean a dispute over the correct legal treatment would be taken to the courts. This has already happened once. It would mean different people complying with different laws during the same federal election, based on which corner of the country they resided in. It would mean complexity when the AEC was trying to give guidance to the public and, indeed, would make our electoral arrangements at a federal level nationally inconsistent.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Don Farrell</p>
  • <p>Labor welcome the debate on Senator Lambie's amendments. We've been talking to her since 8.30 this morning about some of these issues. We particularly welcome the senator's commitment to improving transparency and the integrity of the Commonwealth donations regime. However, we won't be voting for the amendments as we are of the firm view that the Commonwealth parliament should be able to make laws in relation to the conduct of Commonwealth elections without those laws being overridden by the states. If sections 302CA and 314B are repealed then it leaves open the potential for foreign donations to be funnelled through state branches and to avoid the Commonwealth ban on donations from foreign actors. Further, it will mean that there will be no uniformity in the treatment of federal parties and candidates. Rather, they will be governed by the laws of eight different states and territories. This is not a position we can accept.</p>
  • <p>What we must strive towards is a better Commonwealth funding and disclosure regime. Labor's bill currently before the Senate, which would lower the donations threshold from $14,300 indexed to inflation to a fixed $1,000, and the introduction of a system of real-time disclosure would immediately provide greater transparency of those who are seeking to influence our elections. Further proposed reforms of donations and expenditure caps, increasing the rate of public funding and introducing administrative funding for parties and elected Independents would reduce parties' reliance on donations and improve the integrity of the system. Labor will continue to pursue these reforms and we look forward to working with Senator Lambie to achieve them.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Larissa Waters</p>
  • <p>[by video link] I indicate that the Greens will be supporting these amendments.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">David Fawcett</p>
  • <p>We will be doing this in two parts. First, the question is that items 25 and 27 and subitem 3 in item 34 of schedule 1 as amended be agreed to and item 26 and subitem 2 in item 24 of schedule 1 stand as printed.</p>
  • <p>Question agreed to.</p>
  • <p>The TEMPORARY CHAIR: The second part of this now is in relation to amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 8985. The question is that amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 8985 be agreed to.</p>
  • <p>Question negatived.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Jacqui Lambie</p>
  • <p>I move amendment (3) on sheet 8985:</p>
  • <p class="italic">(3) Schedule 1, page 7 (after line 26), after item 24, insert:</p>
  • <p class="italic">24A Section 302CA</p>
  • <p class="italic">Repeal the section.</p>
  • <p class="italic">24B Section 314B</p>
  • <p class="italic">Repeal the section.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Larissa Waters</p>
  • <p>[by video link] I'm happy to say a few words about that, but I don't want to butt in, in case there's anybody else wanting to do so. I can't see the chamber, so I'm not sure if I'm butting in.</p>
  • <p>The TEMPORARY CHAIR: If you debate this, we are compelled to have a four-minute division. If you don't debate it, we can have a one-minute division. It's your call, Senator Waters.</p>
  • <p>I'm not sure I'd classify it as a debate, but I do wish to make a few remarks about the substance of the amendment. If I can confirm it, we're speaking to amendment (3) on sheet 8985, which repeals the head sections 302CAand 314B of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I think that's the one we're at.</p>
  • <p>The TEMPORARY CHAIR: That is correct.</p>
  • <p>It's a bit different when you're not there in person; I apologise. Essentially, my understanding of the effect of these amendments is that they would close the back door that the government are, in my view&#8212;a view they don't share&#8212;seeking to establish. It is a back door enabling them to continue to donate to state parties, albeit into a separate bank account, from donors that would be prohibited from donating to that state party were they operating under state laws. It all gets a little bit meta, but I made some remarks earlier today about my concern that there is a very cosy relationship between donors that will not be stopped from donating to state parties.</p>
  • <p>What I want to put to the chamber are some excellent remarks that were made on this very point by, of all people, the Queensland Labor Party in their submission to the JSCEM inquiry. They put it in a more cogent way than I have. You can't win them all! They say:</p>
  • <p class="italic">Simply asserting a donation is for federal purposes does not insulate a state party, or the state candidates it endorses, from corruption risks.</p>
  • <p>The point they're making is, where you've got federated parties and you've got state organisations like, I believe, the LNP, which organises themselves in Queensland, a property developer will be able to donate to the state LNP; it just goes to a separate bank account, and that's permissible even though that same donor is not allowed to donate to that same party if we are in a state context. It's an artificial distinction, and our view is that the creation of this separate bank account does not properly insulate the cosiness and the sense of obligation, if you like, from the state party back to that donor. That is exactly why we want to clean up donations. That is why, when we come to the remaining Greens amendments, we will move to ban donations from people like property developers, big mining, big pharma and a number of others that I will regale you all with when the time comes. We don't think you can insulate a political party from that influence&#8212;particularly not where you've got a federated structure like we now know that the LNP does. So that is why we will be supporting these amendments. Senator Lambie's very welcome to correct me if I'm mistaken about the effect of her amendments, but that is my understanding of the effect of her amendments, and we, on that basis, support them.</p>
  • <p>Question negatived.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>