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Thursday, 15 November 2018
Page: 8420

Senator WATERS (Queensland) (17:35): I now move Australian Greens amendment (9) on sheet 8546 revised:

   (9) Schedule 1, page 55 (after line 32), after item 64, insert:

    64A After section 305B


        305C Real -time disclosure of gifts

      (1) If a person or entity makes a gift to:

      (a) a registered political party; or

      (b) a State branch of a registered political party;

the person or entity must, in accordance with this section, notify the Electoral Commission of the gift.

Note 1: A contravention of this civil penalty provision may be a continuing contravention (see section 93 of the Regulatory Powers Act).

Note 2: A restricted donor is not permitted to make gifts to political entities. See section 302EA.

Note 3: Persons and entities other than restricted donors are not permitted to make gifts that exceed the disclosure threshold to political entities. See section 302EB.

Civil penalty: 60 penalty units.

      (2) For the purposes of subsection (1), a person or entity who makes a gift to any person or body with the intention of benefiting a particular registered political party or a State branch of a registered political party is taken to have made that gift directly to that party or branch.

      (3) The notification must be made as soon as practicable after the gift is received.

      (4) The notification must set out the following:

      (a) the amount or value of the gift;

      (b) the date on which it was made;

      (c) the name and address of the registered political party or branch.

      (5) The notification must be in the approved form.

      (6) The Electoral Commission must publish the notification on its website, in a readily accessible format, as soon as practicable after receiving the notification.

This is an amendment that would allow and require real-time disclosure of donations made to political parties. I'll move some other amendments that say we think that shouldn't happen for particular vested interests that have a stranglehold on our democratic decision-making process, and I'll move separately another amendment that says we think all donations should be capped at $1,000, because we don't think big money should play a role in decision-making, but this particular amendment relates to real-time disclosure. I will be very interested to see how the chamber votes on this issue because I understand, in fact, that there's some agreement that this is a good idea. Will those parties have the courage to actually vote for it? That is what I am very keen to know.

I want to hearken back to the fact that we've had some by-elections recently. By the time we get to the next general election, the public still won't know who donated to the large political parties at those by-elections, yet we'll be at the next election. So how on earth are people meant to know who is pulling the strings? It's pretty clear that the big donors are pulling the strings, but these parties don't want to tell the public who is donating to them.

So that's why this amendment would give the public the right to know who's paying these folk who are making decisions on behalf of their donors to promote the donors' vested interests and putting the community a distant last. These amendments would give the community a right to know so that, when people cast their vote, they are doing so in full knowledge of the priorities of the people that they might consider voting or not voting for.