How much publicity can a party extract from a single announcement? If you cast your mind back to September last year, Bill Shorten tried to find a silver lining on revelations about then-frontbencher Sam Dastyari’s expenses by promising to reform the political donations system. Labor would ban foreign donations, ban donation splitting, lower the threshold for reporting back to $1000 and tie public finance directly to campaign expenditure — just like it proposed to do in 2009, when the Coalition and Steve Fielding combined to stymie the reforms. Labor was as good as its word and introduced the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Donation Reform and Transparency) Bill 2016 quietly into the Senate in late November — the second reading speech was simply tabled by Labor’s Don Farrell — and nothing further was said in the chamber about it. Now, in the wake of Malcolm Turnbull’s self-inflicted wound on his donation to the Liberal Party, Labor’s decided to ramp things up again and this morning introduced the same bill into the House of Representatives, with Bill Shorten himself speaking on it and piously calling for bipartisanship. We know Labor has a much better record on donations disclosure than the Liberals, yes, but we always balk when Bill Shorten, who didn’t report a $60,000+ donation for seven years, starts talking about fixing the system.

Peter Fray

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