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Thursday, 15 November 2018
Page: 8412


Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (17:02): The opposition will be opposing the amendment moved by the Australian Greens. Labor has worked with the charities and not-for-profits for almost a year, guaranteeing that the bill before the Senate, the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017, protects public policy advocacy. Labor has approached this debate and the year of negotiations that has preceded it with careful consideration of why the Commonwealth Electoral Act exists and the important role it plays in ensuring any organisation that seeks to influence an election meets the expectations of the Australian public, especially relating to transparency. In advocating for the charities and the not-for-profits, Labor has ensured that the very definition of 'electoral matter' is sensibly defined. Our changes, moved today by the government, have ensured that those who should not bear the burden of political actors do not and that those who seek to influence elections are regulated appropriately.

Labor has always opposed seeking blanket exemptions in the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and the reason is clear: blanket exemptions, regardless of their intent, create loopholes in our law. Any organisation seeking to deliberately influence an election, insofar as it is still captured by the narrow definition negotiated by Labor, should comply with those transparency measures outlined in the revised bill and the ban on using foreign money. We cannot support an exemption where those seeking to deliberately influence an election can hide behind an unintentional loophole of charitable purpose. That is not good government, not good policy and not good for our charities.