Australians are rightly proud of our democracy and our electoral system. These systems are, however, only as robust as the institutions and frameworks that support them, and it is vital they remain trusted, relevant and fit for purpose.
Democracy is best when it is conducted in a way that is transparent, and where our community feels confident that our political system and our politicians are accessible to all and not just to those capable of making very large donations. Across the western world we see the potential for a drift from democracy when people feel like their political system isn’t working for them and believe that their system has been captured by vested interests. It’s a trend that we must work hard to avoid in Australia.
In this interim report, the Committee considers a number of matters pertaining to the 2022 Federal Election, including reforms to donation laws and the funding of elections, truth in political advertising laws, and encouraging increased electoral participation and lifting enfranchisement of First Nations People.
The Committee’s inquiry has received nearly 1,500 submissions, illustrating the importance with which Australians hold the electoral system. We have also held nine public hearings to further examine some key questions with a wide range of stakeholders, and have further hearings planned. The Committee is deeply appreciative of the witnesses who have appeared at those hearings to aid us in our work.
The evidence we have heard has allowed the Committee to develop clear goals for reform: to increase transparency in election donations and curb the potentially corrupting influence of big money, to build the public’s trust in electoral and political processes, and to encourage participation in our elections.
The Committee in this report recommends significant changes to our federal system. It is important to note that many of these reforms are not untested ideas or approaches. States and territories around Australia have grappled with the same challenges the federal system must now respond to and have provided models from which the Commonwealth can learn.
Noting that the Committee’s work is not yet done in considering the conduct of the 2022 Federal election, on behalf of the Committee I thank the many people who have taken the time to engage with this inquiry. I also thank my colleagues for their ongoing engagement with the important work of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters – this report has been strengthened by the sincere and good-faith involvement of members across the political spectrum, even where we do not agree on all topics.
Ms Kate ThwaitesMP