Jun 13, 2017

The government wants to ban foreign donations — except the significant ones, of course

It's not the constitution but the cash that would be at risk if there was an across-the-board ban on foreign donations.

Josh Taylor — Journalist

Josh Taylor


All major parties appear now to want a ban on foreign donations, but the government looks set to exempt a certain class of foreign donations — coincidentally (we’re sure), those that make large donations to the major parties. 

Legislation to ban foreign donations is expected to be introduced into Parliament later this year, but the exact ban is unclear at this point. Speaking on Sky News on Sunday, Attorney-General George Brandis said he and Special Minister of State Scott Ryan had met with the Solicitor-General to determine how exactly a ban could work without potentially being in breach of the constitution. One exemption, Brandis said, would be for multi-nationals with a significant presence in Australia but not owned by Australians:

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14 thoughts on “The government wants to ban foreign donations — except the significant ones, of course

  1. old greybearded one

    How would it breach the constitution? The ban on developers in NSW was found legal and surely donating to a party is not part of the implied right of free speech.

  2. susan winstanley

    Anyone who listens to the major political parties on banning foreign donations has lost their bullshit antennae. Parties have a vested interest in the Public Funding and Disclosure laws they write into the Electoral Act, and they cannot be trusted to play fair, unless proposed laws are “competitively neutral”, which is where the “debate” usually ends up in the legislation.
    We missed out on the Faulkner Reforms because of Liberal Party bloody-mindedness and we are now 20 years behind the rest of the world on foreign donations. The Liberals are now spinning to journalists about illusory constitutional barriers, nonsensical exemptions, and taking another year “to get it right” (ie after the next election) when there are already three Bills in Parliament to simply Ban Foreign Donations and let the parties wear the consequences to their bottom line. It is not difficult.
    The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters is the forum for finding a competitively neutral way through, and its Reports are always important in laying out the political divisions and looking for a way through, but in recent years under Coalition control the JSCEM has divided into predictably partisan camps, Govt report plus Opposition Dissent. This is not very clever, its stupid.
    The only Honest Broker in this arena is the Australian Electoral Commission which
    year after year puts forward submissions containing non-partisan recommendations for reform that are studiously ignored.
    AEC submissions online show that as far back as 1996 the AEC has been recommending serious reforms to Funding and Disclosure law, including “Real Time” disclosure and foreign donation bans. The Press would do itself and us a favour by standing with the independent AEC on electoral reform and treating with healthy scepticism the diversions and delays thrown up by the major parties.
    The Press has an important role in recognising and broadcasting public disgust at the present state of affairs, identifying non-partisan solutions, and forcing politicians to respond in good faith. Go for it crikey

    1. Yclept

      Yep, “real time” disclosure is definitely what we need as it would act a shame file.

    2. AR

      Susan – your touching faith in “the Press” notwithstanding, why would the major owner of the aforementioned entity want transparency and accountability?
      The more money the parties have the more they will spend on advertisements in the … see above.
      Win-win for pollies & the proprietor, big LOSS for We, the People.

  3. graybul

    Why bother George . . . ? We know both Parties will work to insert that little ‘wrinkle’ whereby Big Money access will ensure their needs be met.

  4. klewso

    “One exemption would be for multi-nationals with a significant presence in Australia but not owned by Australians”?
    So it would be a licence for Rupert to continue to donate all that free positive PR to his Limited News Party – while slagging off Labor and anyone else in his Party’s way – the sort that Labor and others have to pay Limited News to counter?
    What would the market price of Rupert’s donations amount to in $Oz?

    Meanwhile the likes of Gorgeous George want to whinge about GetUp! – as if Limited News isn’t “foreign owned and carrying on as a political entity with it’s own agenda”?

  5. Jack Barclay

    I am at a frustrating loss to understand why our politicians cannot get their minds around the totally unacceptable current situation of party donations and the conflict of interest to policy making.
    There needs to be a ban on political donations. They can be recompensed by parliament after the election on rate per vote.
    We cannot stop the Unions, GetUp, Minerals Industry etc from advertising . What we have to do is decouple donations directly influencing political favour. We should not have a system, as is currently the case, that compromises the impartiality of our politicians to develop and approve fair policy for Australians.

  6. Lee Tinson

    Typical Brandis … head so far up orifice that he neither sees nor cares that his bullshit is the only transparent thing about him. What a fraud he is! All he wants to do is ban GetUp!, but as far as I’m aware the donations they receive are declared in real time and probably don’t include foreign corporations. Just like it should be for everyone.

    1. mary wood

      GetUp gets its donations from thousands of pensioners like me who donate small amounts regularly, as well as large donors – I am fairly sure there are no foreign donations. The problem political parties have with GetUp is that it gives a voice to those of us who are not heard anywhere else. And they are successful. As for needing a right wing GetUp they already have that is spades – the Murdoch press for starters.

  7. klewso

    And now we’re getting the Team Oz MkII Red Herring side-show.

  8. AR

    Given the evocation of the sacred Constitution, it should be noted that parties are nowhere mentioned in it and, by some readings – eg “members are required to represent the constituents only..”, are actually prohibited as external influences.
    Political parties are simply private organisation, like butterfly fanciers or footie clubs, so it would be simple enough to limit all donations to the members only.
    This might have the awful effect of making their policies more popular and their subsequent actions more accountable but, hey you may say I’m a dreamer.
    Assuming that such members would be ‘natural persons’ (coff, coff Malcolm Roberts) the only other stipulation should be that they are citizens, on the electoral roll.
    As this will never happen, some second best options would be real time disclosure – I’ve heard that there are electric whizzery gadgets called computers these days – which would have prevented Talcum’s too clever by attempt to evade scrutiny of his $1.75M largess by post dating his cheque to July 1st 2016.
    If all else fails, how about simply limiting expenditure on electioneering?
    Those damned corflutes nailed to trees and public utility poles might be less of a visual plague if the pennies available for campaigning were limited.
    Meanwhile, oh look, Porcus Aviatrix

  9. Srs21

    They’re so desperate to get the people to stay with their big polluter mates, Julie”look at me,look at me ” Bishop is beating a dead horse with Sam’ s stupid error. They just opened a Chinese branch of the LNP in qld. tsk tsk

    1. klewso

      “Look at Sam! Lookat Sam! LookatSam! Don’t look at Robb.”

      1. bushby jane

        Or at Julie apparently. Pots and kettles.

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