Federal

Feb 3, 2012

More evidence of why donation disclosure laws are hopeless

For several years now Crikey has engaged in the ritual denunciation of our Commonwealth electoral donation laws. It's worth repeating.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

For several years now Crikey has engaged in the ritual denunciation of our Commonwealth electoral donation laws every February when the Australian Electoral Commission does its annual release of donations data.

It’s worth repeating: at the Commonwealth level, the laws about electoral donations are a complete disgrace. That we are only finding out 17 months after the 2010 election who donated to the major parties is a blight on our democracy — one the mainstream media, normally quick off the mark to denounce any lack of political transparency, seems to ignore.

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10 comments

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10 thoughts on “More evidence of why donation disclosure laws are hopeless

  1. Edward James

    The laws are certainly a joke. Because we should know who donated how much to which politician or political party, before the election not eighteen months after the vote has been counted. That means donations would be in and registered weeks before the ballot is called. Is that complicated? No it is bloody not! Edward James

  2. Fran Barlow

    [Austereo appears to be one such. It hasn’t donated since the 2007 election, but gave $197,788 as a “gift in kind” to the Liberals — presumably radio airtime]

    Perhaps there should be a “deeming” regime so that undercharged ads for non-charitable organisations are deemed to have paid the broadcaster the rate they would have charged for a commercial spot. This should be easy enough to work out by simply comparing all like broadcasters at like times and deriving a “mean”. Tax would then be paid on these ads.

  3. John64

    Why would you pay ‘tax’ on ads? You pay tax on income, not expenditure. And the easy way around your stupid tax on under-paid ads (because, how terrible?) is the radio company donates $150,000 to the party and the party then pays the radio company $150,000 for the airtime – all agreed to before-hand of course.

    Probably of greater issue are third party campaigns (for example, the mining industry’s campaign, the pokies ads along with groups like “Say Yes Australia”) who aren’t required to disclose who’s behind them, who donated or how much. Not quite as bad as the American Super PACs but already those campaigns have had a much more profound impact on politics in Australia than the political parties themselves.

  4. Andybob

    At one stage it was thought you could donate $11,500 to the Federal party and then a further $11,500 to each State party for use in supporting the Federal campaign, without triggering a disclosure obligation. Does anyone know if that is still possible ?

  5. AR

    The political pusillanimity of the MSM is well known (bread buttered/honeyed/caviared) but there IS an exception to the mainstream media, normally quick off the mark to denounce any lack of political transparency, when it was the $1.6M given to the Greens. Announced AT THE TIME, by both recipient & donor, but the shock horror from the RR & its enablers was deafening!
    The Greens policy is there should be NO large donations from disguised sponsors. That doesn’t prevent their being traduced with claims of hypocrisy – credible only only to the semi sentient, who unfortunately are compelled to vote – when they abide by what is legal, are openly transparent, unlike tuthers, and still campaign that the law is a malignancy on (our soi disant) democracy.

  6. Edward James

    JOHN64 Don’t we pay Goods and Services Tax on expenditure? Edward James

  7. Schnappi

    People who go into politics these days are frauds,you cannot tell me me that a kid like wyatt roy at 21 years of age has the life experience to influence even my pet rat.
    The guy will get a pension for life at age 29 and all the perks for sitting on a backbench doing nothing but warm a seat and smile at someone who has not even taken his picture.Yet a serviceman has to do 20 years ,probably shot at ,even wounded and will get far less than roys pension
    Not an attack on wyatt roy personnally ,just on a system that allows frauds to be elected on an alleged principle to their constituents and then immediately desert their constituents and be muzzled by someone like abbott with opportunistic goals for him personnally.

  8. Fran Barlow

    John64 said

    Why would you pay ‘tax’ on ads? You pay tax on income, not expenditure.

    You’d be paying tax on artificially reduced income. This arrangement is really an attempt to embezzle the public purse. Private citizens can’t make tax deductible political donations. Business apparently can.

    And the easy way around your stupid tax on under-paid ads (because, how terrible?) is the radio company donates $150,000 to the party and the party then pays the radio company $150,000 for the airtime – all agreed to before-hand of course.

    Firstly, your hypothetical arrangement might qualify under the tax act as a tax avoidance scheme. There are penalties for that. Also, politically, it would play very poorly in public. Not going to happen. The arrangement also has the advantage of increasing effective taxation on cross promotion — such as in elite sport. No bad thing, IMO.

    If media companies are backing political parties, they should do it transparently. ‘In kind’ is sneaky.

  9. deft descender

    Watching Clive Palmer on Late Line with Tony Jones he said he could only donate $5000 as a company to a political party but a union could donate $500K. Jones didn’t challenge that statement.

    If true then no wonder the Libs treat any ALP political donation reform proposals as another reason to say no.

  10. deft descender

    Palmer was talking about QLD.

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