Campaign Finance Laws



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SpeakersSpeaker; McDonald Dr Andrew; Iemma Mr Morris
BusinessQuestions Without Notice, QWN


CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS
Page: 5679

Dr ANDREW McDONALD: My question is to the Premier. What direction will the Government take to improve campaign finance laws in New South Wales?

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: In relation to the previous question, the establishment of an assessment commission is consistent with what the ICAC said and, secondly, independent panels. The Leader of the Opposition might read the draft reforms that the Minister has released. As I said last week, donations laws need to change, and for the better. We will make that happen. The Government does support the upper House inquiry into donation reform and the Australian Labor Party has already made a submission. The Government has been doing further work on this issue. I am pleased to inform the House of the work that has been going on to ensure that reform takes place, contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition just said. We will ensure that the reforms work—that there is reform, not just change. These will be a carefully considered series of measures to improve the donations laws and accountability and transparency—

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Willoughby will cease interjecting.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: The member should worry about the Greiner fundraiser that she is busy organising for Friday.

The SPEAKER: Order! The House will come to order.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: What is it—$10,000 a table? Is the member on the organising committee?

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Willoughby to order.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: The first of the measures, requiring disclosure on a more regular basis rather than the current system of every four years, will make our system more transparent. Annual disclosure would be equal to best practice in Australia.

The SPEAKER: Order! The members for Bathurst and Coffs Harbour will cease interjecting.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: The first measure is to change the disclosure system for this State from every four years to an annual basis. We will go further. In the interests of having the best system in the country, New South Wales will move to a system of twice-yearly disclosures with full reports in June and December. The Government has also given consideration to the issue of lowering the level of disclosure. The level of disclosure in New South Wales is currently $1,500 for donations to State members of Parliament or candidates and $200 for council members. That figure is consistent with other Australian jurisdictions and far stricter than the $10,500 donation limit that John Howard introduced federally. But rather than undertake unilateral change, the New South Wales Government will give a commitment that if the Commonwealth Government adopts a disclosure limit below $1,500, the New South Wales Government will apply the same lower limit. ICAC has made a number of recommendations—

[Interruption]

The member can say that, but we are going from four-yearly disclosure to twice-yearly disclosure. ICAC has made a number of recommendations regarding the potential for conflict of interest between development applications and donations. My Ministers for Planning and Local Government, as I just outlined to the Leader of the Opposition, have been reporting on these issues—the Minister for Local Government reported to the Local Government and Shires Associations. As a result, we will seek a system of disclosure by applicants for development approvals by which they detail their donations at the time they lodge that development application. The Government agrees that disclosure should be publicly available as part of the development application.

The Government will also make clearer the requirements for councillors to deal with these situations where a perceived conflict of interest might arise from donations. That will be done in consultation with the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Another proposal I want considered is mandating that all councils record the voting history of individual councillors on development matters. The Minister for Planning is already proposing changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act to enable him to delegate his decision-making powers, and ICAC's recommendations are being considered in this current planning reform process.

The Government will formalise these recommendations and proposals and put them before the upper House inquiry. I will also be proposing measures that result in all fund-raising efforts for members of Parliament, councillors and candidates being handled through their relevant central party office—that is, members from each side will not be permitted to organise or collect donations or hold their own campaign accounts. Instead they will refer all contributions to their party headquarters, the registered agents under the Electoral Funding Act that will be responsible for collating and disclosing all donors. We will also consider the disclosure of donations on a website hosted through the party organisation or the Electoral Commission.

[Interruption]

Opposition members might put the Greiner fundraising efforts on that website.

Mr Barry O'Farrell: No. That was—

The SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: I will be asking the parliamentary inquiry to look specifically at how we can make the fundraising efforts of Independent councillors and members of Parliament more transparent. Initial advice from the Electoral Commissioner suggested that the Electoral Funding Authority could assist Independents with that task. I have often spoken of the need for State and Federal uniformity when it comes to donation laws.

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Coffs Harbour and the member for Murray-Darling will cease interjecting.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: With Labor in power in Canberra and in all the States there is a great opportunity for cooperation to achieve national uniformity in these laws. To that effect I will be meeting the Special Minister of State, Senator John Faulkner, to progress further reform in this area. The measures that I outlined today are the first step. There will be further reforms in this area of donations, disclosure and accountability when it comes to electoral funding.