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Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Transparency Measures—Lowering the Disclosure Threshold) Bill 2019

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2019

 

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

SENATE

 

 

 

 

COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL AMENDMENT (TRANSPARENCY MEASURES—LOWERING THE DISCLOSURE THRESHOLD) BILL 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of Senator Farrell)

 



COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL AMENDMENT (TRANSPARENCY MEASURES—LOWERING THE DISCLOSURE THRESHOLD) BILL 2019

 

OUTLINE

 

This Bill seeks to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 by lowering the disclosure threshold for political donations from $13,800 (subject to indexation) to a fixed $1,000.

 

For the 2018/19 financial year, only donations which are at or above $14,000 need be disclosed to the Australian Electoral Commission. This amount is too high. Donations at this level are not made by grassroots supporters of candidates or parties. They are made by individuals and organisations seeking to influence government policy and election outcomes.

 

This Bill will not prevent donations of greater than $1,000 being made. It will simply require donations over this amount to be disclosed to the Electoral Commission. The ability for electors to know who is making large political donations is an important step in restoring the integrity of our democracy.

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

Clause 1: Short Title

1.       Clause 1 is a formal provision specifying the short title of the Bill.

Clause 2: Commencement

2.                        For administrative convenience, the Bill will commence on the first 1 July after it receives royal assent.

Clause 3 - Schedules

3.                        Each Act specified in a Schedule to this Act is amended or repealed as is set out in the applicable items in the Schedule. Any other item in a Schedule to this Act has effect according to its terms.

Schedule 1—Amendments

Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918

Item 1

4.                        Item 1 amends the definition of ‘disclosure threshold’ contained in subsection 287(1) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Act). The disclosure threshold will be lowered from $13,800 to $1,000.

Item 2

5.                        Item 2 removes the note to the definition of ‘disclosure threshold’ which references indexation.

Item 3

6.                        Item 3 inserts a new subsection 305A(1B) into the Act. Currently there is the ability for regulation to prescribe a disclosure amount which is different from the disclosure threshold for the purposes of disclosure returns by donors. The new subsection 305A(1B) will ensure that any amount prescribed by regulation cannot be greater than the disclosure threshold.

Item 4

7.                        Item 4 removes the application of indexation to the disclosure threshold making the threshold a fixed dollar figure. It will no longer increase each year as a result of applying indexation.

 



 

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Commonwealth Electoral Amendment

(Transparency Measures—Lowering the Disclosure Threshold) Bill 2019

 

This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the Bill

This Bill seeks to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 by lowering the disclosure threshold for political donations from $13,800 (subject to indexation) to a fixed $1,000.

 

This Bill will not prevent donations of greater than $1,000 being made. It will simply require donations over this amount to be disclosed to the Electoral Commission. The ability for electors to know who is making large political donations is an important step in restoring the integrity of our democracy.

 

Human rights implications

The Bill engages the following rights as provided for in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR):

·          the right of citizens to take part in public affairs and elections, as contained in Article 25;

·          the right of freedom of opinion and expression, as contained in Article 19;

·          the prohibition on interference with privacy as contained in Article 17.

 

The Bill is compatible with the above rights. The Bill does not prevent citizens making political donations, it only increases transparency which is healthy for democracy. The privacy of small donors will still be protected and the loss of privacy of anyone donating above the threshold is reasonable, necessary and proportionate to the need to rebuild the public’s trust in our democracy.

Article 19 states that the right of freedom of opinion and expression includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information. This Bill will ensure that citizens know who is seeking to influence government policy by donating amounts above $1,000.

 

Conclusion

This Bill is compatible with human rights as it does not raise any human rights issues.

 

Senator Don Farrell