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With an election expected to be announced today, the Electoral Commissioner for New South Wales warns about weak legislation for disclosure of political funding

PETER THOMPSON: The Premier has a sore throat, but that's unlikely to stop Nick Greiner announcing an election for the State today, which will give the Labor Party a severe cold. Liberal Party press secretaries have been scurrying to work particularly early this morning for Mr Greiner's long-awaited announcement. But there's a warning also today for all political parties, and it comes from Ian Dickson, the New South Wales Electoral Commissioner. In the wake of the WA Inc Royal Commission, Mr Dickson has warned political parties not to attempt to disguise the source of donations during the election. Michael O'Regan asked Mr Dickson about the extent of the problem in New South Wales.

IAN DICKSON: It is, of course, the obvious way to do it. The legislation, as it was originally interpreted and understood, indicated that there was nothing to prevent this. The powers of the authority were considered to be fairly restrictive.

MICHAEL O'REGAN: Are you in any position to bring a halt to that practice?

IAN DICKSON: No, I'm not. The legislation doesn't give me any powers to do that. It will only be when the returns are submitted will the question of what information is in those returns will the Authority be in a position to examine them.

MICHAEL O'REGAN: Given that the Western Australian Royal Commission has intensified the scrutiny on issues of election funding, do you think that the New South Wales election will become the benchmark for judicial review of election processes?

IAN DICKSON: No, I think we're still a fair way away from that. There needs to be a fairly nationwide look at election funding proposals, as I would see it. There's got to be some uniform laws. And just how tight those laws are will be how they can be enforced.

MICHAEL O'REGAN: Justice Roden identified last year that the parties were often totally against the spirit of the law, even though they managed to stay within certain legal loopholes. Do you think that the Government should have acted in that year to change those loopholes?

IAN DICKSON: Well, it's not possible without a lot of deal of thought as to the legislation. It's no purpose in introducing again weak legislation which isn't going to overcome any of the problems. It's a fairly involved and complex piece of legislation which needs to be carefully looked at and appraised before any reasonable sort of terms of legislation which will fix any problems can be instituted.

PETER THOMPSON: Ian Dickson, the New South Wales Electoral Commissioner, with Michael O'Regan.