Taking money out of politics

Victoria will soon have the strictest and most transparent political donation laws in Australia under legislation introduced into the Parliament today by the Andrews Labor Government.

The Electoral Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 will overhaul Victoria’s political donations regime by eliminating large donations and usher in Australia’s most transparent donation disclosure laws to give Victorians increased confidence in political decision-making.

Big political donations – BANNED

Political donations will be capped at $4,000 over four years, eliminating large political donations to political parties, associated entities, and third-party campaigners.

Secret political donations – BANNED

For all political donations over $1000.

Foreign political donations – BANNED

All political donations from foreign corporations and foreign nationals will be banned. Dual citizens, Australian Residents or companies with an ABN will be subject to the new regular rules.

All $1000+ political donations – DISCLOSED IN REAL TIME

The disclosure limit will be reduced from $13,500 to $1,000 per financial year, and political donations of $1000 or over will be disclosed within 21 days, with the Victorian Electoral Commission then publishing those donations online.

New penalties of 10 YEARS IMPRISONMENT

For entering into arrangements that seek to circumvent these laws.

Why are these changes needed?

Victorians deserve to know that the decisions of Government are taken purely on their merits and not influenced by those who have the deepest pockets. Whether it’s planning, regulatory change or infrastructure investment, donations should play no part and be seen to play no part in these decisions.

Victoria’s current political donation laws are based on the national ones, which means that multi-national corporations and vested interests can donate millions to political parties.

The public often rightly asks what donors are getting in return for these large sums. Under Labor’s new rules, any political donation above $4,000 per four year term will be banned. Multiple political donations from the same source, or related companies, will be treated as a single donation.

Currently, political donations often aren’t made public for up to two years. Our rules will require real-time online disclosure of donations of $1000 or above, so the public knows exactly who’s donating, when, and to who.

Political parties, associated entities and third party campaigners will also now need to provide an annual return every 12 months, setting out their political expenditure and the political donations they have received over the last 12 months.

What’s covered by the new laws?

All political parties will be covered by the laws, with harsh penalties for non-compliance. Bodies set up to fundraise for political parties will be covered by the rules. Third-party campaigners will also be covered, including trade unions, industry bodies, and independent organisations involved in Victorian political campaigning.

Will membership fees and subscription fees be captured?

Membership and affiliation fees from or to industry bodies, political parties, special interest groups, membership bodies or trade unions will not be covered, but fees above $1,000 per financial year will need disclosing in an annual return.

Does this mean membership fees and union fees will be ‘un-capped’?

Membership fees and affiliation fees to all entities, regardless of whether they are a political, party, a third party campaigner, or an associated entity, will not be subject to the $4000 per 4 year cap. This is to preserve the freedom of political association that all Australians enjoy.

Will all money raised by third party campaigners or associated entities be capped?

Money raised for non-political purposes by associated entities and third-party campaigners, for instance by a trade union or industry body for training programs or philanthropic reasons, will not be capped.

What changes will you make to public funding?

Given the strict new administrative requirements upon political parties and the need to ensure continued participation in election campaigns, the existing public funding formula is also being changed to reflect these stringent new donation rules and limit the influence of private donations in the political process.

The additional cost of these new public funding arrangements will be $45 million over four years. The Bill will also specify a minimum number of Parliamentary advisers for opposition parties to both provide greater certainty and transparency for staffing arrangements, and limit the discretion of the Government of the day.

When will these new laws start?

The ban on foreign donations, and ban on anonymous donations of $1000 or more, will commence as soon as the parliament passes the law and it receives Royal Assent. We expect this to be as soon as possible.

To assist parties prepare for the new rigorous compliance regime, administrative funding will commence from 1 July 2018.  The remainder of the reforms commence on 25 November 2018, immediately after the State Election.

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