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Friday, October 10, 2014

Voices for integrity, transparency and accountability

Are politicians everywhere listening?  

Senator John Faulkner in his address Public Pessimism, Political Complacency: Restoring Trust, Reforming Labor (pdf) and the NSW Panel of Experts chaired by Dr Kerry Schott in the Interim Report-Political Donations sang from the same integrity, transparency and accountability songbook this week with a refrain that should be heard in the Federal and all state jurisdictions: the current rules regarding political donations erode public trust and confidence and contribute to the perception of corruption. 

Senator Faulkner (who had plenty to say also about reform of the Labor Party) recalled his reform proposals of 2009 (that never made it through the Senate) including measures
  • to reduce the donations disclosure threshold from its current level of $12,800 to $1,000 and remove indexation;
  • prohibit foreign and anonymous donations;
  • limit the potential for 'donation splitting' across branches, divisions or different units of parties;
  • require faster and more regular disclosure of donations; and
  • introduce new offences and significantly increase penalties for the breach of electoral law.
The Panel established by NSW Premier Mike Baird indicated action is needed to ensure closer to real time time disclosure of reportable donations so that voters are aware of fundraising activity before an election; increased penalties for serious breaches of election funding laws, a longer time period for commencing prosecutions and a new anti circumvention measure-disqualification from office for those who deliberately seek to avoid election finance laws; and mandatory education programs for candidates and members of parliament on ethical conduct and compliance with the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act (NSW). A final report with recommendations is due in December; the NSW state election in March 2015.

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