There’s no doubt that without donations political parties and political candidates could not exist. Extreme personal wealth should not be a requirement to run for office. Donations enable all sorts of people, from all sorts of backgrounds to put together campaigns to win their place in the parliament.
There is an increased interest in improving transparency around political donations and electoral finance reform more generally. This needs to be balanced against the real and practical considerations of how reducing the threshold would work in practice.
Any reform that hinders people or groups from easily running for parliament is one that requires serious consideration. While a $1000 donation may seem like a large amount of money, this equates to less than $20 a week over a year that a member of our community – a hairdresser, a shop keeper, a farmer – may be making to their local party branch. Introducing a lower threshold may act to deter these everyday Australians from engaging with the political process and reduce their ability to push for their cause.
Similarly the administrative burden that would arise from reducing the threshold is not one to be taken lightly. Larger, better-resourced parties would be better placed to adapt to this reform. But this would come at the cost of curtailing smaller players - such as minor parties, independents - to raise funds without being strangled in red tape. The unintended consequences of reducing the threshold would also impact the many charities that are classified as third parties. The administrative burden of a lower threshold would detract from their core business of helping the community.
The Committee plans to examine donation thresholds further. In November 2020 we will be undertaking a review of the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Act 2018. In this process we will not be looking at sections of the Act ad hoc, but rather considering the amendments as a whole and making recommendations that consider the entire Act in context.
The Committee thanks everyone who took time to make a submission.
Senator the Hon. James McGrath