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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Political donations off the record-till February 2012

While there will be plenty of argy bargy about black holes in spending plans during the course of the election campaign, Ari Sharp in the Sydney Morning Herald reminded us of another: that our weak laws do not require timely transparency of political donations, or the identity of those donating $11500 or less. The Opposition managed to see off in the Senate the Government's proposal to drop the ceiling on anonymous donations back to $1000, on the grounds of privacy. But that important right must on occasion give way to other public interests, and it's a clear cut case when those interests go to the heart of the democratic process. Neither major party has shown any interest in something akin to real time disclosure on the internet of donations as they are received.
Donations of more than $11,500 made to parties for each financial year are not disclosed until February the next year, meaning that contributions made now will not be on the public record until February 2012. And despite parties claiming tens of millions of dollars in public funding, they are able to keep their campaign spending largely secret...
'The system is structured to conceal and mislead the public about what's really going on with donations,'' said Brad Pedersen, the founder of Democracy Watch, a non-partisan group committed to curbing the influence of money on politics.''It's quite feasible for all these donations to be immediately declared on the internet, as it is in other nations. We won't know for months who's donating right at this very moment to both the major parties.''

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:53 pm

    Note that when the Howard govt increased the limit to $11,500 a few years back, they also then said it was to promote 'privacy'. As then Chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation I argued against the changes, on the grounds that it was about secrecy, not privacy. Subtle but important difference. Privacy advocates are usually in favour of greater govt/political transparency, not less. Anna Johnston