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Electoral Amendment (Banning Foreign Political Donations) Bill 2017

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2016-2017

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Electoral Amendment (Banning Foreign Political Donations) Bill 2017

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

and

STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circulated by authority of

Hon Bob Katter MP



Electoral Amendment (Banning Foreign Political Donations) Bill 2017

 

 

 

OUTLINE

 

This Bill makes additions to the strong foundation set in the Andrew Wilkie MP’s Private Members Bill, Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Foreign Political Donations) Bill 2016.

 

Mr Wilkie’s Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Foreign Political Donations) Bill 2016

seeks to ban donations to Australian political parties and candidates from foreign sources. The Bill proposes  to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to make it unlawful for a political party or candidate to receive a donation from a “foreign person”, as defined in the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 .

 

Mr Katter’s Private Members Bill, Electoral Amendment (Banning Foreign Political Donations) Bill 2017 is consistent with the policy intent of Mr Wilkie’s Bill and adds an additional requirement for the donor to provide a Statutory Declaration that they are not a foreign person.   Even if a gift of over $1,000 is accompanied by a statutory declaration, an offence will still be committed if the gift giver is in fact a foreign person.

 

The statutory declaration is required to be given at the time of giving the gift and is a stronger requirement than the name and address requirements for gifts over $10,000 currently in s306.

 

This Bill is in response to continued widespread public concern about large foreign donations to Australian political parties and candidates, and is necessary to bring Australia into line with international best practice, as the current Commonwealth Electoral Act does not distinguish between Australian and foreign donors, or provide any requirement for the donor to state if they are an Australian citizen.

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT

 

The bill will have no financial impact.

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

 

Clause 1: Short Title

 

This clause is a formal provision and specifies the short title of the Bill as the Electoral Amendment (Banning Foreign Political Donations) Bill 2017.

 

 

Clause 2: Commencement

 

1.       This clause provides for the commencement of Sections 1 to 3 of the Act the day the Act receives Royal Assent, and the commencement of Schedule 1 of the Act on 1 July 2017.

 

Clause 3: Schedules

 

2.       This clause establishes that, as the intent of the Bill is to be realised through amendments to another Act, the Schedules of this Bill will amend that Act accordingly.

 

Schedule 1

 

Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918

 

Item 1: Subsection 4(1)

 

1.       Item 1 inserts a definition of “foreign person” into the definitions listed in the Act. It is defined as per the definition of “foreign person” used in the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 . Item 1 also provides for the definition of “foreign person” to be broadened to include any other person or entity as prescribed by the regulations.

 

Item 2: After section 306

 

2.       Item 2 inserts a section 306AA into the Act. Clauses 1 and 2 make it unlawful for a political party, a State branch of a political party, a candidate, a member of a group, or a person acting on behalf of a candidate or a group to receive a gift made by a foreign person or if the gift is not accompanied by a statutory declaration by the person who makes the gift stating that the person is not a foreign person

3.       Subclauses (1)(d) and (2)(d) specify that the value of the gift must exceed $1,000 to be unlawful under this section.

4.       Clauses 3 and 4 specify that a person who is considered to be a candidate or having constituted a group shall remain considered as such for 30 days after the polling day of an election.

5.       Clause 5 specifies that a gift received unlawfully under this section is a debt owing to the Commonwealth and provides the Commonwealth with powers to recover this debt in a relevant court.

6.       Clause 6 specifies that a gift received under this section is not unlawful if it is returned within 30 days of its receipt.

7.       Clause 7 specifies that nothing in this section applies that would limit the constitutional doctrine of implied freedom of political communication.

 

Item 3: Subsection 315A(1)

 

8.       Item 3 amends subsection 315A(1) of the Act to allow the Electoral Commissioner to initiate action in a court to recover a debt owed under subclause 306AA(5).

 

Item 4: After paragraph 321A(1)(f)

 

9.       Item 4 amends section 321A(1) of the Act to provide for the dollar figure referenced in subclauses 306AA(1)(d) and 306AA(2)(d) to be indexed.

 

 



STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

 

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Electoral Amendment (Banning Foreign Political Donations) Bill 2017

 

This bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the bill

 

This Bill seeks to ban donations to Australian political parties and candidates from foreign sources. The Bill proposes  to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to make it unlawful for a political party or candidate to receive a donation from a “foreign person”, as defined in the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 .

 

The donor must provide a Statutory Declaration that they are not a foreign person.   Even if a gift of over $1,000 is accompanied by a statutory declaration, an offence will still be committed if the gift giver is in fact a foreign person (and therefore lied on their statutory declaration).

 

The Bill provides exemptions for donations under $1,000 and includes provisions for a political party or candidate who receives a prohibited donation to repay it within 30 days.  

 

Human rights implications

 

This Bill does not engage any of the applicable rights or freedoms.  

 

Conclusion

 

This bill is compatible with human rights because it does not raise any human rights issues.

 

 

 

 

Hon Bob Katter MP