Lee Rhiannon is the current Greens represenative on the federal Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM). Former Senator Bob Brown previously served on this committee. After each federal election the JSCEM holds an inquiry to review the conduct of the election, and also reviews legislation related to the electoral system. You can view a full list of its activities here.
Since Labor took government in 2007 the JSCEM has held two significant inquiries into donations reform.
Inquiry into election and political party funding
In 2011 the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters held an inquiry into options to improve the system for the funding of political parties and election campaigns. Lee Rhiannon was the Greens Senator on that inquiry.
It addressed issues raised in the Government’s green paper (see below), the role of third parties in the electoral process, election funding transparency and accountability, limiting the escalating cost of elections, and looked at international practices for the funding of political parties and election campaigns, including in the US, Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
See a list of public submissions including submission from the Australian Greens and the Greens NSW. Seven public hearings were held across the country during 2011. You can read the published transcripts of those hearings.
The report recommendations were:
- Reducing the disclosure threshold from the current $11 900 (for the 2011-2012 financial year) to $1 000;
- Single donations of $100 000 to be disclosed to the AEC within 14 days of receipt and this information made publically available ;
- Treating related political parties as the same party for the purposes of the disclosure threshold to prevent ‘donation splitting’ between different branches;
- Requiring detailed disclosure of expenditure above the threshold;
- Money raised from fundraising events to be counted as donations;
- Making disclosure reporting six-monthly instead of annually, and investigating options for real time online disclosure;
- Banning anonymous donations above $50 and prohibiting foreign donations;
- Introducing administrative funding to assist with the increased workload of disclosing details of donations and expenditure above the threshold;
- Strengthening penalties for more serious funding and disclosure offences and introducing administrative penalties for more straightforward offences; and
- Extending the Australian Electoral Commission’s powers to conduct compliance
- reviews and to make the outcomes of reviews publically available.
See the JSCEM Inquiry Report
The Greens submitted a dissenting report which outlined why the inquiry has been a missed opportunity to make key advances in federal election funding reform, such as:
- national uniform legislative reforms that restrict donations and campaign expenditure at a federal level, such as have been introduced in NSW and Queensland, to enhance and protect our democratic system of government.
- place caps on election expenditure,
- place a total ban on corporate donations, or at least support a ban on all donations from the tobacco, gambling, alcohol and property development industries.
The Greens did support key recommendations such as lowering the donation disclosure threshold to $1000, and disclosing donations over $100,000 within fourteen days.
See Australian Greens dissenting report (PDF)
Federal Green Paper: Donations, Funding and Expenditure
In 2008 a comprehensive green paper into election donations, funding and expenditure was prepared when Senator John Faulkner was the Special Minister for State.
The paper is an excellent review of the current federal election funding law, problems with our current law, and possible options for reform. Electoral funding reform is urgently needed and the Green Paper helped to facilitate public debate on political donations and the wider issues of electoral funding reform.
The Greens NSW made a submisision in support of key donations reforms including:
- a ban on political donations from companies and other organisations,
- a strict limit on donations from individuals,
- anonymous donations to be limited to a very small amount - for example $50,
- candidates’ personal contributions to their own campaigns to be bound by the same limit placed on individual donations,
- a cap on expenditure in election campaigns for political parties, candidates and third parties,
- continuous disclosure of donation data on the internet,
- fixed election terms for the federal parliament, and
- public funding to cover the reasonable expenses of political parties and their election campaigns.
See the Greens NSW submission to the Green Paper