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Thursday, 10 November 1983
Page: 2611

Mr RUDDOCK 5.07)-The provisions contained in this clause are very important. They are the key to the Government's public funding proposals, and only by registration of political parties will these proposals be able to be put effectively in place. So this is a key part of the Bill, one about which I spoke yesterday in the Parliament. I want to emphasise what I said then, because I do not think the Government can get away with the charade that it is endeavouring to play with the Australian public, by suggesting that it can in some way legislate for honesty.

The Special Minister of State (Mr Beazley) endeavoured to say: 'We will not be able to eliminate all corruption; there may be some, but the Bill will be able to handle corruption'. I put it that there is no way that we can legislate for honesty in this area. In fact, I think the proposals that the Government is putting will place me in a far more difficult situation than under the operation of the funding code which the Liberal Party has had in place since it was formed . By the very nature of the provisions-the total scheme, the total framework-of the registration, coupled with disclosure of donations to political parties, I have been made aware, simply by the fact that the information must be collated and put before a department, of the names of donors to my campaign and the Party 's campaign, which is information to which I have not been privy before this time.

The Government can make all sorts of allegations and laugh about people who have a code which they are prepared to accept, such as the fund raising code of the Liberal Party. But if we are dealing with honest men whose integrity we can trust, that code is all that is required. I have not made inquiries about donations. I have never involved myself; I have never written for money. I will not accept money in my office because I do not believe it is appropriate for a member of parliament to be beholden to anybody. If people support a party and the principles that it believes in, they will give that party support. It would be preposterous to suggest that if people say they have voted for me I should in some way treat them differently from somebody who said that he had not voted for me. I hope that all honourable members would regard it as preposterous. As far as I am concerned, once I am elected to parliament I am here to treat all people equally. I am not going to be influenced by the fact that somebody says: 'I gave some money to your campaign'. It is because he believes in the fundamental principles that my party believes in that I am elected to parliament and that he has given that support to me and my campaign. I believe in the importance of the fund raising code. I do not think it is going to be of any help to me in my duties that it will become public information, which I will be privy to, who was prepared to support my campaign in my electorate for me or to support my party. That is why these registration principles contained--

Dr Klugman —Mr Chairman, I raise a point of order. I hate to interrupt at this stage because the honourable member is just about to get to the point, but none of the funding argument is relevant to this matter; only registration is relevant. I think the principle of funding should not be debated at present.

The CHAIRMAN (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! There is no point of order. The comment that has been made might be helpful.

Mr RUDDOCK —The point that was being made by the honourable member was of course directly related to clause 42 which we are discussing. The fact of the matter is that without registration no political funding scheme will be possible. Of course, the Minister has said that there are other reasons why it is important that political parties be registered. Let me turn to some of those reasons. One of them is to enable the operation of the list system for Senate elections. That particular provision was suggested as an option which might be taken up by the Government in evidence that was given before it in preference to a number of other options that it was known were before the Government, including the optional preferential system and the first past the post system. As far as the Opposition parties and I are concerned, while the list system might be the least worst option in terms of an effective system that should be put in place for electing parliamentarians in this country, it is not an acceptable option. It may not be the worst of the three options, but in terms of the system we have now, it is not an acceptable option. For that reason we do not believe that registration of a political party to put in place that list system is important.

All of the other aspects that are laid down and various matters that have to be followed in relation to the naming and the registration of political parties are set out in the relevant provisions of the Bill. Part IX, Part IXA and Part IXB deal with the registration of candidates and provide for a very complex system for registration of political parties. It appears that when we have eliminated the list system and eliminated public funding to political parties there is only one other reason in this Bill to require registration; that reason is to enable the party name to be put after the candidate name when it appears on a ballot paper. I do not regard that one reason to be sufficient justification for the registration procedures that are outlined, the difficulty that people will be put to and the amount of work that will be required.

I have not asked but I suppose it would be appropriate to suggest that somebody should ask how many additional officers will need to be appointed to the Australian Electoral Commission to administer a procedure of this sort. When we think about it, when we get to the stage of not only running elections but also organising political parties, providing for registration, changing registration and deregistration provisions, providing for the inspection of registers, servicing documents and reviewing decisions we have to ask ourselves: What are we coming to in terms of the amount of regulation and endeavour that is required in this country? At some point people are going to ask this Government: What is the nature of the decisions that you have taken, such that we have seen a very significant increase in the levels of public expenditure in this country? The totality of decisions of this sort will mean that the Australian public will harshly judge the Government because of the additional cost to the taxpayer over time in the range of areas. It is in this area, registration of political parties, that this Government will be condemned.

I do not think there is any evidence that public funding and registration of political parties is desired in the electorate and that it will achieve any good purpose. As I said before, I do not believe that we can legislate for honesty. If people want to be dishonest in the way in which they seek election to the Parliament, they will still do so and they will still be judged, in my view, accordingly by the electorate. The most satisfactory way in which parliamentarians who indulge in improper practices will be judged, and if corruption is involved people will be judged, will not be by registration of political parties but as a result of the decisions the Australian electorate will take in relation to those people when they seek election. I urge the rejection of these particular provisions because they are not required in any way whatsoever.