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Democratic Audit Update - 24 June 2008

Different donors

In a new Audit discussion paper, Joo-Cheong Tham from the University of Melbourne argues the case for treating trade union financial contributions to political parties differently from those of corporations. The paper is a response to growing support for restricting or banning political donations from all organisations.

Read the discussion paper

Citizenship: the Audit view…

The Democratic Audit of Australia has made a submission to the Woolcott committee reviewing the Citizenship Test. The Audit submission argues that if a test is to be retained it should be an oral one, dealing solely with the rights and responsibilities of being an Australian citizen.

Read the Audit submission

… and the Woolcott view

On ABC Radio’s Sunday Profile program on 15 June the chair of the committee reviewing the Citizenship Test, Richard Woolcott, was asked "Do you personally think that there should be a citizenship test?" to which he replied, "No I don’t…"

Read a transcript of the interview, including Mr Woolcott’s criticism of the Becoming an Australian Citizen booklet, here

Deductibility inquiry reports

The federal parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has released its report on Schedule 1 of the Tax Laws Amendment (2008 Measures No1) Bill 2008. The committee, which heard evidence from the Audit’s Graeme Orr, recommends removing the tax deductibility of political donations.

Read the report

Queensland FOI committee reports

Queensland’s FOI Independent Review Panel has released its final report, The Right to Information: Reviewing Queensland’s Freedom of Information Act. The panel, chaired by barrister, author and former journalist, David Solomon, has made 141 recommendations to Premier Anna Bligh. These amount to "not merely an upgrade of the legislation, but a new model … a radically different but more effective legislative architecture for FOI". Government information should be released "routinely and proactively" without the need for individual requests. A Right to Information Act should replace the existing legislation. Cabinet material should be accessible unless it compromises collective ministerial responsibility, and released completely after ten years instead of thirty. The Queensland review could be a model for changes in other states and the Commonwealth.

Read the report

NSW funding committee reports

New South Wales Legislative Council has released its report on Electoral and Political Party Funding in NSW. Among other things, the committee recommends a $1,000 cap on private donations and a ban on corporate donations. "Political donations and election spending would be disclosed in a timely, transparent and accessible manner," says the report. "There would be greater policing of the electoral funding scheme, and tougher penalties for non-compliance."

Read the report

NSW legislation introduced

Meanwhile, the Electoral Funding Amendment (Political Donations and Expenditure) Bill 2008 and the Local Government and Planning Legislation Amendment (Political Donations) Bill 2008 were introduced into the NSW Parliament on 19 June 2008.

Read the minister’s second reading speech here

Canada sets a "radical" example

In an article for the Canberra Times, the Audit’s Marian Sawer reports on Canada’s electoral funding reforms and suggests that they have lessons for Australia. The first wave of reform, in 2004, was prompted by the "sponsorship" scandals under the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper went even further in 2006 to remove the influence of corporate money from the electoral process. Still more legislation is currently before the Canadian parliament, designed to close loopholes regarding "loans" to parties and candidates.

Read the article here

Participation inquiry

Victoria’s Electoral Matters Committee has commenced an Inquiry Into Voter Participation and Informal Voting. Submissions close on 27 June 2008, and public hearings will be conducted at Parliament House Melbourne on 23 and 24 July 2008.

More details here

Regulating lobbying

In this paper Gareth Griffith from the NSW Parliamentary Library discusses the regulation of political lobbyists as at 2 June 2008. Taking a comparative approach, he looks at current and proposed schemes in Australia and in selected overseas jurisdictions and asks: what is the best and most effective regulatory scheme to safeguard and nurture confidence in the democratic system?

Read the paper here

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