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Political Donations Reform & Electoral Act Review

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Media release – Elise Archer, Attorney-General, 16 February 2021 Introducing a new political donations disclosure scheme for Tasmania The Tasmanian Government has today released the Final Report of the Electoral Act Review, paving the way for new legislation to be drafted to deliver a political donation disclosure scheme in Tasmania. This will deliver a fairer, […]

Media release – Elise Archer, Attorney-General, 16 February 2021

Introducing a new political donations disclosure scheme for Tasmania

The Tasmanian Government has today released the Final Report of the Electoral Act Review, paving the way for new legislation to be drafted to deliver a political donation disclosure scheme in Tasmania. This will deliver a fairer, more transparent and modern electoral system for our State.

“When I outlined my Government’s priorities for 2021, releasing this Report along with our response was front and centre, and today we are delivering on our commitment to create a fairer, more transparent and modern electoral system for our State.

“I want to make the very strong point that whilst there will always be those who will claim that the system is not fair or that it is open to manipulation we are not acting because an ICAC or other similar body like our Integrity Commission has recommended we do so.

“The reforms we are announcing today are because increasing transparency and fairness is the right thing to do to ensure that the public continue to have faith in the outcomes of elections into the future,” Premier Peter Gutwein said.

The Electoral Act Review has been delivered at a time when changes to electoral laws are occurring across Australia and a number of decisions have been handed down by the High Court in relation to electoral law which reveal the complexity of regulating the electoral process.

The Final Report makes 11 high-level recommendations for proposed reform to modernise our current system and create a political donations disclosure regime specifically for Tasmania.

The Review involved two rounds of public consultation and has already led to amendments to the Electoral Act 2004 which commenced in 2019.

The recommendations in the Final Report broadly fall into four areas, namely:

*    recommendations of a technical nature that will ensure our electoral system is effective and contemporary;
*    recommendations relating to a new disclosure regime for candidates and political parties;
*    recommendations relating to the regulation of third party campaigners, donors and associated entities; and
*    a recommendation in relation to the public funding of election campaigns.

“The Tasmanian Government is committed to ensuring Tasmanians have confidence in our electoral system and a key premise of this is ensuring our electoral system is fair, transparent, effective and contemporary,” Attorney-General Elise Archer said.

“That’s why the Tasmanian Government supports, in principle, all of the recommendations of the Final Report and has commenced the preparation of urgent draft legislation to deal comprehensively with the critical areas of the Final Report,” the Attorney-General added.

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Some of these components will be subject to further modelling to determine the best approach for Tasmania. This will be informed by advice received from an Inter-Departmental Committee that has been established to consider these matters.

Subject to public consultation and further advice, the legislation will broadly deal with:

* introducing a new State-based threshold for disclosure of political donations. We expect this threshold to be in line with other Australian jurisdictions of between $1,000 – $5,000 accumulative over 12 months and apply to non-monetary gifts;
*    introducing new timeframes for the disclosure of political donations. Donations are to be declared at least 6 monthly and then more regularly in election campaigns;
*    introducing public funding, at an appropriate level, for both administrative and ‘cost per vote’ support;
*    look at excluding smaller contributions in the order of $200 or less;
*    a ban on foreign donations, and anonymous donations over a prescribed amount;  and
*    dealing with other administrative matters, including the functions and powers of the Tasmanian Electoral Commission.

It is our intention for this legislation to be released for public consultation after Easter 2021, and introduced into State Parliament before the winter break.

Subject to the legislation passing both houses, the new arrangements will be implemented as soon as practical and prior to the next State election.

“I’ve spoken this morning with the Electoral Commissioner and assured him that all necessary resources will be made available to enable this to occur. We understand this will be a major change for the Tasmanian Electoral Commission (TEC) and we will consult closely with the TEC on how best to transition to the new arrangements,” the Premier Peter Gutwein said.

At this stage, this scheme will only apply to the House of Assembly, given the different requirements and it is important we do not disrupt the preparations for the upcoming Legislative Council elections.

As per the Final Report’s recommendations, we agree that caps can be dealt with at a later stage. As the Report states, there is currently insufficient evidence to determine whether caps are genuinely needed or if problems exist that would be resolved by the introduction of caps.

This reform will be a sensible and balanced approach to ensure accountability and transparency in our State elections. Key elements of this scheme will be applied to third parties and political parties equally, to ensure a level playing field.

It is important that Tasmanians have confidence in our electoral system and we must ensure it applies to everyone who participates in the political process. It’s critical we get these settings right.

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Media release – Ella Haddad MP, Shadow Attorney General, 16 February 2021

Premier finally makes a start on much-needed donation reform

The Gutwein Liberal Government has finally released the long-awaited report into political donation laws in Tasmania, containing a raft of recommendations in line with reforms Labor has been calling for.

Shadow Attorney-General Ella Haddad said Labor had progressed the donation reform debate and kept the issue on the agenda for more than four years despite constant opposition from the Liberal Government.

“Just a year ago the Premier ruled out any action, in fact ridiculing Labor for bringing on a Private Member’s Bill on donation reform,” Ms Haddad said.

“So it is encouraging that today Mr Gutwein – in releasing this report – has accepted its recommendation in principle, including donation disclosure for parties and candidates, banning foreign donations and investigating spending caps and public funding.

“However, it is one thing to say you accept the recommendations in principle, it’s another to put that support into practice.

“The Premier needs to tell Tasmanians if he intends to have legislation ready to be debated soon and whether any changes will be in place before the next election next March.

“If he does not, it is another broken promise from Peter Gutwein.

“Labor is looking forward to working constructively on the way forward to bring Tasmania into line with other states.

“It’s critical that now Mr Gutwein has accepted the findings of this report that he acts as soon as possible so that Tasmania no longer has the worst political donation laws in the country.”

Media release – Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Justice spokesperson, 16 February 2021

Action Not Words Needed on Electoral Reform

Today’s release of the Final Report from the Electoral Act Review is long overdue, but the contents of the report fall far short of what is required.

Tasmanians were outraged by the amount of dirty money spent during the last State Election campaign, and in the three years since the Liberals have continued to rake in millions of dollars from secret donations and stall on meaningful political donations law reform.

Despite being just a year – or perhaps less – until the next election, the Liberals have made minimal commitments, and kicked the can down the road for important issues.

Donation reforms, including a disclosure threshold and more frequent reporting, are welcome, but no specifics have been made public yet.

Decisions on important reforms such as expenditure caps, bans on corporate donations, and public funding, have all been deferred – despite being part of the terms of reference of this two year review process.

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Donations reform in Tasmania isn’t rocket science – it doesn’t need “more consideration” and “more modelling and analysis” as the Report indicates. All other jurisdictions have introduced a range of laws to curb the corrupting influence of secret political donations.

After years of deflection, and then sitting on this Final Report for over a year, the Liberals now say we’ll see some legislation for electoral reforms in the Parliament this year. We hope that’s true, because Tasmanians are fed up with being pushed aside from the democratic process by wealthy corporate interests.

We have alleged political interference in the political donations reform process from the very start. Outrageously, the Government redacted our submission to the review when they posted it to their website, removing any reference to political interference, or even our factual statements about donations to the Liberal Party or actions of the Minister.

If that isn’t proof of politicisation of this reform process, what is?

We urge the Liberals to put their actual reform proposals on the table as soon as possible. These laws must ensure at minimum meaningful caps on electoral expenditure, the real time disclosure of political donations, mandatory disclosure requirements for third party campaigners, and a ban on donations from industries such as the gambling sector.

After all, the strengthening of our democracy should be a top priority for any government.

Media release – Andrew Wilkie MHR for Clark, 16 February 2021


I am deeply disappointed to see that the long overdue Tasmanian Government response to the political donation report is flimsy and promises too little, too late.

Tasmania has the weakest political donation laws in the country and the community has been crying out for years for strong and effective reforms. But all the Government has offered is a vague commitment to principles when what is needed is an iron-clad commitment to well-defined changes.

The fact is that Tasmania needs a $1,000 disclosure threshold, real-time reporting of donations, a cap on the gross amount of donations from any one source during an electoral cycle, and a definition of ‘donation’ that includes any money or activity that materially benefits any party or candidate. Moreover, the Government needs to extend reforms to the Legislative Council and be prepared to lead a constructive community discussion about public funding for election campaigns.

Source: Tasmanian Times

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