On Banning Political Donations, By James Reed

It always struck me as a good idea to ban political donations. That would test the commitment of the major parties and begin to create a level playing field with the smaller parties. Let lab-lib get out and have chook raffles and the like. Wait, would that be a political donation?

In any case, the South Australian government is proposing banning political donation, as such things give the perception that the government may fall into corruption, perish forbid. On the "he who pays the piper, calls the tune" principle, people may come to feel that decisions are made as a form of pay-back, rather than merits. Of course, the proposal relates to the South Australian state government, but if it works, it would serve as a model for federal reform too.

There will be a capped public funding for elections, and as well parties will need to recruit members to build up money from membership fees.It sounds worth pursuing and is certainly an improvement on what we have. But there will be a High Court challenge to the legislation, which it may not survive: "Any law that has the effect of limiting political advertising is vulnerable to challenge for breaching the constitutionally implied freedom of political communication. In addition to the risk the law might be too skewed in favour of incumbents, the High Court has also previously struck down a law that sought to ban political donations from any organisation or person other than an enrolled voter.

In that case, however, there was a gap between the amount of public funding provided and the expenditure cap, which the party had to fund, including by donations. Whether a ban that goes even further (prohibiting all political donations) would be valid may depend upon the relationship between the expenditure cap and the various types of funding payable to parties, independents and new entrants."

We will just have to see how this goes.




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Saturday, 20 July 2024

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