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(Oct 27, 2010) On October 20, 2010, the Australian government introduced a bill to reform the rules relating to political donations, disclosure, and funding. (Press Release, Hon. Gary Gray, Government Moves to Increase Transparency in Political Donations, Oct. 20, 2010, http://www.smos.gov.au/media/2010/mr_412010.html.) The Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Matters) Bill 2010 is similar to a bill that was introduced in March 2009, which lapsed when the previous parliament ended. An earlier version of the bill that was introduced in December 2008 was rejected by the Senate. (Govt Reintroduces Donation Reform, AFR.COM, Oct. 20, 2010, http://beta.afr.com/p/national/govt_reintroduces_donation_reform_GaCe0SB
kV3fkiDCPQKfGMM
; see generally Lisa White, Campaign Finance: Australia, Law Library of Congress website, Apr. 2009, http://www.loc.gov/law/help/campaign-finance/australia.php.)

According to the press release, the new bill will:

· lower the threshold for the disclosure of donations from the current amount of $11,500 (indexed) to a flat rate of $1,000 [about US$11,400 to US$990];

· extend the prohibition on anonymous donations to all anonymous donations, except where the donation is $50 or less and has been received at a general public activity (such as a fete) or at a private event (such as a dinner or a quiz night);

· prohibit the use of anonymous donations by third parties for political expenditure, except for anonymous donations of $50 or less and that have been received at a general public activity or at a private event;

· ban foreign donations;

· prevent donation-splitting with donations to separate branches of a party to no longer be treated as separate donations, with the effect that donations totalling $1,000 or more will need to be disclosed;

· increase the frequency of the disclosure of donations and expenditure from annually to every six months and reduce the timeframes for a range of other reporting periods from up to 20 weeks to eight weeks; and

· tie public funding for registered political parties, unendorsed candidates and unendorsed Senate groups to genuine election expenditure incurred during the period from the issuing of the writs for an election to the end of polling day. (Press Release, supra; Summary, Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2010, Australian Parliament website, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%
3A%22legislation%2Fbillhome%2Fr4477%22
(last visited Oct. 25, 2010).)

The bill follows an agreement among the government, the Australian Green Party, and independent members of Parliament on the immediate reform of the political donations law. "More than ever, we should move Australia's electoral laws and processes towards the world's best practice, so that we can continue to be proud of the inclusive and transparent nature of our political process," Special Minister of State Hon. Gary Gray said. (Hon. Gary Gray, Second Reading Speech, Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2010, Oct. 20, 2010, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/genpdf/chamber/hansardr/2010-10-20/0
034/hansard_frag.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf
.)

If parliament passes the bill, the new rules will operate from July 1, 2011. (Id.)

Author: Kelly Buchanan More by this author
Topic: Elections and politics More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Australia More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 10/27/2010