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Thursday, 15 November 2018
Page: 8272

Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (11:58): Senator Cormann is absolutely right when he says this is an important reform. This is a critical reform, and it is so important that we get it right. The big money that is pouring into our parliament from vested interests, from those huge corporations, is a fungating cancer on our democracy. What it needs is radical surgery, not a bandaid, which is what this bill proposes to do. What we need to do is dry up the flow of money that's coming from those huge corporations. They write the policies that are written and debated by both the major parties. Their voices are heard, and the community is shut out. No wonder people have had a gutful of politics when they can't get an appointment to see their local MP but big corporations can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in those cash-for-access forums. We have cash-for-access forums where political parties are paid for senators to do their job. They advertise, 'Come and hear what the minister has to say about this policy,' but if you want to hear what he has to say, you have to pay for it.

Big money is a cancer on our body politic and it needs a radical excision, not a bandaid, which is what this bill is. Here we are with a set of sensible amendments to ensure that this legislation does what the Australian community expect of us and gives them a voice ahead of those big, wealthy, powerful vested interests—those corporations. It's true that some of those corporations come from overseas, but the vast majority are here in Australia doing what they can to boost their bottom line. That is why they donate. Does anyone think that these corporations donate because they want to see democracy flourish and because they are philanthropic entities and want to see Australian parliaments become better places? Of course they don't. They give money because it allows them to write policy. That's why we have the coal industry writing energy policy. That's why we have the Business Council writing our tax policy. That's why we have media companies writing our media laws.

Big donations are a cancer on our democracy, and we should be here debating how we fix it. Senator Waters has a range of amendments that do just that. Ban those membership fees. When big companies attend fundraisers and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars it's not declared as a donation. Ban donations from property developers, from the alcohol industry, from the gambling industry and from the mining industry. We should be doing all of those things. We should be putting in expenditure caps so that political parties can't spend hundreds of millions of dollars, as they have done over the last decade, trying to buy votes. It's long overdue that we take the dirty money out of the Australian political system.

We have other amendments to cap all donations to a maximum of $1,000 per year and to have real-time disclosure so we know when every cent is contributed by a punter or a corporation. We'll know when it's made and where it's made. Most importantly, we'll have that information before an election, not a year afterwards. Because of this dirty deal between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party we are being prevented from having a thorough debate around how we can improve our parliaments, how we can bring in the voice of the community and how we can silence those huge corporations that wield far too much influence over our democracy. Now is the time to do it. We could have a meaningful debate where the critically important amendments proposed by the Greens get the airing they deserve. We won't have that, because this debate will conclude in an untimely manner.