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Thursday, 15 November 2018
Page: 8262


Senator GRIFF (South Australia) (11:35): This bill is well and truly overdue. Frankly, it is only seeing the light of day due to public outrage over a system that encourages cash for favours, a system that has been creatively worked by the major parties over many years and a system that, with the passing of this legislation, will be tighter and have gone a good way towards passing the pub test.

As others in this chamber have already raised, the glaring omission in this bill is timely disclosure of donations, gifts and loans. Donors and financiers have influence; many demand influence. Currently it could take up to 18 months for returns to be made publicly available, but there is a need for the public to know who the influencers are in a more timely way, certainly during an election period. The fact that neither major party has moved to rectify this glaring omission shows the importance to them of keeping their big donors, and hence their big influencers, well and truly out of the picture until one of them has won the election and benefits from the spoils of office. Labor's $1,000 threshold amendment would have got through had they followed through with it, rather than wimping out and putting it up as a second reading amendment. Without doubt, it would have had an effect on limiting some influence—but not all influence. In the end, you and the Liberal Party want to play on the same team in the lead-up to the next election, the same team that accepts money for a degree of influence.

Centre Alliance is serious about giving the public more transparent disclosure of donations. At the very least, there must be a mechanism where the public can determine on a monthly basis the gifts and loans made to political parties and candidates, with the identity of donors and financiers over the threshold also being disclosed. Apart from real-time disclosure, which is our preferred option—and one that I expect will take place eventually and once the Electoral Commission has the capacity for it—monthly disclosure will go a long way to limit undue influence by putting it under the spotlight and allowing the public to have more confidence in the political system. I foreshadow that I will be moving an amendment to that effect that requires political entities and political campaigners to disclose the total value of all gifts on a monthly basis and to disclose the value of gifts and the name and address of the gift giver when that gift, or cumulative gifts, from that gift giver exceeds the threshold. The same, importantly, has to apply to loans. Financiers without doubt have influence, so it is important that their association with a candidate, party or campaigner is captured and made publicly available within 30 days as well.

There are many well-thought-out and valuable clauses in this bill. Political campaigners will now have to be registered and disclose their donations. Election expenditure will be reimbursed in a more equitable manner. Foreign donors will only be able to give up to $1,000—thought that is $1,000 at a time, I note, not in total. The bill is not perfect but it is a great start. But please let us ensure all parties and candidates are up-front and transparent with the public. By being up-front and transparent, undue influence is weakened. Support our amendment for 30-day disclosure and work towards real-time disclosure in the near future. This, and the changes proposed in this bill, will go a long way to restoring public confidence in the political system.