In February 2012, the Parliament of NSW voted to ban all donations from corporations and other organisations, imposing the strictest electoral funding laws in Australia.
This historic reform was the conclusion of a decade of campaigning by the Greens and followed two successive steps in gradually tightening NSW electoral funding laws.
Lee Rhiannon launched the Democracy for Sale project in 2001. After seven years of campaigning, the major parties began to budge in 2008 when Premier Morris Iemma passed legislation that required disclosure every six months (rather than every four years). He also promised to ban donations, but this policy was dropped by the Labor government after Iemma was replaced as Premier by Nathan Rees.
In 2009, the Rees government brought legislation that placed a ban on donations from property developers.
In late 2010, new legislation was passed that banned donations from the tobacco industry and for-profit liquor and gambling industries and imposed caps on expenditure by political parties, candidates and third parties. The legislation also changed how public funding of elections is distributed.
Finally in February 2012, legislation was passed that banned all donations from corporations and other organisations (including union affiliation fees).
Much less progress has been made in federal politics than in NSW in reducing the influence of donations over the political process. Federal legislation imposes no limits on expenditure or on who can donate to parties. Under the Howard government, electoral funding laws went backwards, with millions in donations hidden thanks to an increase in the disclosure threshold.
While the Greens have argued strongly for limits on campaign spending and bans on corporate donations, all attempts for progress on those issues have been resisted.
The Labor government bill introduces six measures in three key areas: increasing the transparency of political donations disclosure; more frequent and timely reporting of political donations and expenditure; and reforming the public funding of elections.
A similar bill, the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2009 was passed by the House of Representatives twice but was defeated in the Senate.
The federal Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters held an inquiry into election and political party funding in 2011. Senator Lee Rhiannon was the Greens member on that inquiry.
This comprehensive paper prepared when Senator John Faulkner was the Special Minister for State.
This bill was the first significant election funding bill brought by the O'Farrell Coalition government. The Bill banned all donations from corporations and other organisations. It also prohibited union affiliation fees going to political parties.
This Labor government legislation introduced caps on spending, changed the system of election funding, introduced administrative funding, and required third parties spending money in an election campaign to be registered and abide by spending caps.
This legislation prohibited donations from property developers to parties or candidates.
A Labor government Bill that brought in changes to the disclosure regime that according to the Premier would improve transparency and accountability.
Sylvia Hale’s amendment no. 92 if passed would have established a ban on donations from developers to political parties.
Greens private members bill introduced by Lee Rhiannon to ban developer donations, to provide for the disclosure of donations and to make other provisions aimed at preventing corruption by amending the Election Funding Act 1981 and the Local Government Act 1993.
Greens private members bill introduced by Sylvia Hale in April 2008. In May the Bill was referred to the Select Committee on Electoral and Political Funding for consideration. The Bill's principal object was to ban developer donations. It was restored to the notice paper on 13 November 2008. Debate on it was adjourned on 21 October 2009 on a motion of Don Harwin, the Liberal Whip. The Labor government supported this move which meant the Bill was never voted on in the House. The Greens opposed the adjournment of the debate.
Chapter 4 of the Inquiry's report deals with political donations and quotes on several occasions from the Greens submission to the inquiry. Recommendation 11 of the Inquiry was that the model recommended by the Select Committee on Electoral and Political Funding be implemented in full.