Every year on the first working day in February the Australian Electoral Commission releases records on political donations to Australian political parties for the previous financial year, seven months after the end of that financial year. This means a donation that meets the reporting threshold of $13,800 ($14,000 in 2019/2020) could be up to 19 months old before the Australian public is made aware of it.
Donations under $13,800 don’t have to be reported; so the data that does make it into the public domain is incomplete. How incomplete? Consider the 2015/2016 return filed by the Victorian Nationals – home branch of Senator Bridget Mckenzie, who recently resigned from Cabinet over the current sports rorts scandal – which declared total revenue of $841,596, but only disclosed four sources of those funds totalling $109,327 (source: Crikey). This means that 87% of total revenue for that branch was not disclosed, even to its own members.
It’s 2020. Real time reporting of ALL political donations is easily achievable. The current system leaves our democracy open to corruption and rent seeking.
We need a Federal Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and political donation laws that include:
- Real time reporting of all political donations and gifts;
- A much lower reporting threshold ($1,000);
- Licence conditions for federally licensed institutions, such as banks, telecommunications and television companies, that prevent any political donations being made by them;
- Legislation requiring major companies to seek shareholder approval for political donations;
- Legislation to prevent entities that receive government contracts or taxpayer funds from making donations.
Elana Mitchell, Democrats campaigner