Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform Bill: Should We Be Afraid? By Ian Wilson LL.B

     We have so many battles that we need to carefully pick what melees we dive into. Various radical  Left wing groups are concerned about the passage in a few days of the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017.  
  https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/democracy/share-this-video/honest-government-ad-let-s-make-it-go-viral?t=q4o08sKjB

     This is a very well presented video which says that the coming law will gag charities and activist groups, while still allowing foreign interests like China, to do everything they presently do in interfering with “our” democracy.” As this law is likely to be passed in a few days, immediate action would be needed and the Left are on the job. Here is a summary of the bill cut from its own summary:

“Amends the: Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to: establish public registers for key non-party political actors; require non-financial particulars, such as senior staff and discretionary government benefits, to be reported; prohibit donations from foreign governments and state-owned enterprises being used to finance public debate; require wholly political actors to verify that donations over $250 come from an organisation incorporated in Australia, or with its head office or principal place of activity in Australia, or an Australian citizen or Commonwealth elector; prohibit other regulated political actors from using donations from foreign sources to fund reportable political expenditure; limit public election funding to demonstrated electoral spending; amend the enforcement and compliance regime for political finance regulation; and enable the Electoral Commissioner to prescribe certain matters by legislative instrument; and Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 to make consequential amendments.”
https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=s1117

     What is our position as conservatives from the right? Certainly various conservative groups are concerned about where this legislation will go as well. However, reading the black letter of the bill, there seems to be some merit to the Bill. Contrary to the video cited above, the Bill does seek to prohibit donations from foreign governments and state-owned enterprises as well as the disclosure of all donations over $ 250 by political actors who are incorporated organisations in Australia, or with a head office or principal place of activity in Australia. There is a limit on public election funding to demonstrated electoral spending. These seem to me to be good points of the Bill.

     There are concerns though with the establishment of a political register for key non-party political actors. Here the Left wing groups are correct in seeing this as a threat to democracy, because this goes too far. It is one thing to control foreign financial interests in Australia, and another to begin to control activists, even if they are from the left. Hence, there is concern about this Bill, and it needs to be delayed, redrafted and debated after wider public consultation. However, if it gets through it will not be the end of the world for us. There is much worse coming from other directions, such as a revived TTP.

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