Former Supreme Court Judge and Legal Advocate Call for Much-Needed ‘Good Government’ Reforms in Tasmania

The Australia Institute has today published recommendations for much needed political reform in Tasmania. The report, Good Government in Tasmania advocates a co-ordinated approach to reform across

  • Tasmanian Integrity Commission
  • Truth in Political Advertising
  • Election Donations Reform
  • Right to Information

The report is being co-launched by retired Victorian Supreme Court judge, The Hon David Harper AM QC, a current member of the Australia Institute’s National Integrity Committee, a group of former judges working for greater transparency in our political institutions and Hobart lawyer and transparency advocate, Roland Browne.

“Compared to other Australian states, Tasmania has weaker political donation laws, less government transparency and limited public accountability. We need to address all of these problems simultaneously through an omnibus of reform bills, rather than a piecemeal approach,” said Leanne Minshull, Director of the Australia Institute Tasmania.

“The one good thing about being at the back of the pack is the opportunity for Tasmania to choose the best of the rest and emerge as a national leader in good government. The community is crying out for better governance, all we need now is the political will to make it happen,” Ms Minshull said.

On required reforms to the Integrity Commission, The Hon David Harper AM QC said:

“In NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland, extraordinarily serious instances of corruption have been unearthed by royal commissions or broad-based anti-corruption authorities. There has been no similar findings in Tasmania from its anti-corruption authority. After operating for 10 years, the community and government need to ask why,” said The Hon David Harper AM QC, retired judge of the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal

“Tasmania is one of the least transparent states in terms of its right to information and political donations laws. Yet the lack of any full inquiries by the Integrity Commission would imply that it is simultaneously the most corruption free.

“The lack of full inquiries by the integrity commission has led Tasmanian politicians to believe the myth that the state is free of corruption,” Mr Harper said.

On required reforms to donation laws Roland Browne said:

“Electoral reform in Tasmania is decades overdue,” said Roland Browne, Hobart lawyer and transparency advocate.

“The Tasmanian Government can run from the clamour for reform, but it cannot hide. Secrecy over electoral donations must end. So must donations from corporate groups like gaming companies and property developers. Donations from overseas must also be banned. The channelling of money into political parties from these sources taints and poisons our democracy.

“Elections should be about inspiring an imaginative policies; not based on who can garner the most in secret donations. We call on the Premier to disclose the Liberal Party’s sources of funds from the March 2018 state election,” Browne said.

Specific recommendations made in the Australia Institute report include:

Tasmanian Integrity Commission

An independent inquiry to recommend structural and cultural changes to the Integrity Commission so that design principles are improved and existing powers, including holding full inquiries with public hearings, are utilised.

That, in the interim:

  • Funding be increased immediately to assist in finalising open cases.
  • Jurisdiction is expanded to enable the investigation of any person that adversely affects or could adversely affect, directly or indirectly, the honest or impartial exercise of public administration.
  • A well-resourced and specialised unit within the DPP be established to respond to any recommendations from the tribunal for prosecution.

Truth in Political Advertising

  • Tasmania to pursue truth in political advertising legislation based on the South Australian/Australian Capital Territory models.

Election Donations Reform

  • Cap election expenditure at $30,000 per party candidate and $30,000 per party in the State House of Assembly.
  • Keep the current system of donations caps in the Legislative Council.
  • Third party House of Assembly election spending cap of $40,000.
  • Disclosure of all donations, gifts and loans over $1,000 within 24 hours within an election period.
  • Disclosure of all donations, gifts and loans over $1,000 within seven days outside an election period.
  • Gift and loan disclosure threshold of $1,000.
  • Ban on donations from foreign corporations or individuals.
  • Ban on all donations within seven days of polling day.
  • Ban on all anonymous donations.
  • Ban on all donations from property developers and gaming companies.

Right to Information

  • Decrease the number of RTI applications by releasing more information from all government departments on a regular basis.
  • Require agencies to outline elements of any provision relied upon for a refusal to an application, not just the general provision.
  • Release annual and detailed information on applications that have been refused and the reasons why.

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