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Thursday, 10 November 1983
Page: 2632

Mr YOUNG(9.51) —The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) commenced his remarks by saying that the Government would not take this matter to a referendum. There was a referendum at which we put this proposal on 5 March . In the policy speech prior to 5 March we told the Australian people-as we had in 1972, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1980 and 1983-that when given the opportunity we would pass these reforms. In some areas of electoral reform throughout the Western world Australia has been the leader-for example, in giving women the vote. On some other questions, however, we follow the world, and this is one of them. I think it is important for those people who may have listened to the honourable member for Mitchell and the honourable member for Boothby (Mr Steele Hall) to understand that all we are doing is instituting in Australia a system that already applies in most democracies of the Western world. The people of West Germany, Sweden, Austria, Norway, Holland, Italy-all across Europe-and in the United States of America have the system which is now being instituted in Australia.

I once asked Malcolm Fraser, when he was Prime Minister of Australia, to hold a referendum on one of these questions. He said: 'We will hold a referendum at the next election. People can decide whether to support or oppose us.' I can assure honourable members not only that we have a mandate to introduce the system, as we are doing now, but also that if ever the conservatives return to power in Australia, as they are likely to do in the years ahead, they will not change the system. Once it has been introduced they will see that it is the best system for Australia, and they will follow it. The honourable member for Mitchell said-I believe him, as I believe the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock)-that he does not accept any money and that he does not know where the money for the Liberal Party comes from. But they remind me of the member of the Diet, maybe the elected member of Yokohama prefecture, who did not know Tanaka got $1.2m from the Lockheed Company. Of course, the honourable member does not know where the money comes from; he is far removed from the executive. He sits on the back benches; he does not run Australia. Why would Lockheed give him $1m? The company would say: 'Why would we give it to a dill from Mitchell? If we want to give someone $1m we will give it to Malcolm because he makes the decisions'.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mrs Child) —Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide is straying from the clause. I draw him back to it.

Mr YOUNG —The important thing for this Government and all future governments is that public funds will be on the record and that private donations will be out in the open. If people want to donate money to political parties, which they will be able to do under these new laws, everybody in Australia will know. If someone wants to give the Labor Government $100,000, the Opposition will know. One would think that after so few years in government-this is our fourth in the last 34 years-we would play it to our advantage and say: 'Let us close the books ; we will do the same as the Liberals did for 33 years'. Would the Opposition not be embarrassed if all the books of the Liberal Party kept over the last 30 years were opened for us to see where the money came from? Would that be a story ? It would make the Godfather look like a nursery rhyme. Let me read to the Committee what the Liberal Party stated in a submission to the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform. The Liberal Party, at paragraph 3.6 on page 9 of its submission, stated:

The Liberal Party acknowledges that public funding has been a commitment of the ALP for some years, and is clearly stated in several points on page 21 of their 1982 Platform, Constitution and Rules. We further acknowledge that such a commitment was also made (p. 29) in the Policy Speech delivered by Mr Hawke on 16 February 1983.

The people of Australia knew that that was our position because we had stated it at every election. I reiterate and re-emphasise for the benefit of the people who will take an interest in this debate-I am surprised the media have not given it much more coverage than they have already-that all we are doing in this area of reform is bringing ourselves into line with what exists in most democracies. We see this as strengthening democracy, not weakening it. If people want to make donations, they can make them as long as they are prepared to tell everybody in Australia that they are making them so that the connection between donor and Government policy is clarified and everybody can see it.

Mr Cadman —What are you going to do about radio stations?

Mr YOUNG —That is up to the Australian Electoral Commission. The Commission will look at what will happen in terms of television and broadcasting time. It will decide in the years ahead what ought to be done in respect of broadcasting and television, but we are making this move at the moment after seeing campaign costs double between November 1980 and March 1983. I was General Secretary of the Labor Party at the time of the 1972 election. At our head office we raised a little over $400,000 for the conduct of the campaign. In 1983 the Labor Party set out to run its campaign from head office by trying to raise $2m-that is, a 500 per cent increase in a decade.

If campaigns in Australia continue in this way, political parties will have to raise tens of millions of dollars in order to campaign. All the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal annual reports will tell honourable members that for every dollar we spend on television and radio the Liberal and National parties spend $ 2. We spend $2m they spend $4m. The honourable member for Mitchell and the honourable member for Dundas may say, as they did this afternoon, that they do not know where the money is coming from and that perhaps they need only $8,000 or $10,000 to conduct their campaigns, but the head offices of their party may need $7m or $8m. Do honourable members not think it is of some interest to the Australian community to know who donated $7m or $8m to the conservative parties of this country? Or, if the Labor Party has to raise $4m, do honourable members not think it would be of interest to the Australian people to know who made a $ 4m donation to the Labor Party?

The other question which I raised yesterday should not be overlooked. Apart from Canada, no country is more dominated by foreign interests than this country . We are, to some extent, almost overrun by foreign investment. Some industries are 100 per cent owned by foreign interests. To the extent that those companies want policies introduced by government to suit their management, it seems to me that in the absence of reforms such as this, they are in a position to manipulate governments, whether they be in Canada, Australia or some other country. This reform can stop that activity and put an end to what has been an overbearing influence on our political system from people outside this country. That is another reason why public funding has been introduced overseas and why we are introducing it here.

We have not gone half the way governments have gone in Europe. In Europe, as honourable members would know if they have read anything about the matter, money is paid out during the period between elections. With the money given by governments parties can print their newspapers and fund educational institutions for the purpose of educating people according to their own philosophy. All that we are doing at this stage is adopting one element of that system, the public funding of campaigning, which has been accepted in the vast majority of democracies in the Western world.