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Monday, May 26, 2008

Good news and no news on transparency and accountability

The good news is that Minister of State John Faulkner's announcement of the first stage in electoral law reform saw legislation introduced into the Parliament on 15 May to
  • Reduce the disclosure threshold for donors, registered political parties, candidates and others from ‘more than $10,000’ (indexed annually to the CPI) to a flat rate of $1,000.
  • Treat donations to different branches of a political party as donations to the same party, so that donors will need to disclose donations totalling $1000 or more to any combination of the branches of the party.
  • Reduce the timeframes for the lodgement of returns by political parties to every 6 months, and shorten a range of other reporting periods under the Act.
  • Make it unlawful for registered political parties, candidates and members of a Senate group to accept overseas donations, and unlawful for associated entities and other third parties to receive overseas gifts that are used solely or substantially to incur political expenditure.
  • Extend the prohibition on accepting anonymous gifts and donations for registered political parties, candidates and Senate groups to all anonymous gifts, and to also cover associated entities and other third persons that use anonymous donations for political purposes.
The legislation will also put a halt to the"money for running"(should that be jam?) rort where candidates who get more than 4% of the vote qualify for public funding but get the money regardless of whether they spent that much during the campaign:"any payment of election funding should be tied to actual “electoral expenditure” that has been incurred. The policy intention behind these measures is that candidates, registered political parties and Senate groups should only receive the lesser amount of either the electoral expenditure that was actually incurred in an election campaign, or the amount awarded per vote (currently approximately$2.18), provided at least 4% of first preference votes have been won. The existing entitlement remains unchanged, but the new claims process will require the agent of the candidates, registered political parties and Senate groups to lodge a claim specifying all or part of the electoral expenditure incurred in an election campaign for which they wish to receive election funding."(Senate Hansard 15 May page8).

The "no news" is that "The Rudd government is progressing with several accountability measures - Freedom of Information, privacy and whistleblowers reform," Senator Faulkner told The Weekend Australian , as reported on Saturday, six months since the election that brought the government to office, following its commitment to act on these issues.

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