Tasmanians look set to pay one of the highest rates of public funding for election campaigns with the poorest oversight of donations received by political parties, with the Liberals and Labor joining forces to pass electoral reforms in the state’s parliament.
Tasmanians will also be disappointed by the missed opportunity to introduce truth in political advertising laws before the next election.
The Legislative Council is set to pass the Electoral Disclosure and Funding Bill 2022 and Electoral Matters (Miscellaneous) Bill 2022 on Thursday, the last day the legislation can be passed through the Lower House this year. The Disclosure and Funding Bill was successfully amended to require a review of the legislation after two House of Assembly elections.
The passage of the legislation ignores the advice of Tasmanian’s leading civil society organisations who proposed crucial amendments in an open letter to all parliamentarians.
“The major parties have teamed up to get more public funding for election campaigns without adequate requirements for transparency about the donations they receive. Tasmania’s donations disclosure requirements will be the worst in the country. Third party campaigners will be virtually unregulated by these laws,” said Eloise Carr, Director of the Australia Institute Tasmania.
“Truth is fundamental to a healthy democracy. Almost 9 in 10 Tasmanians want laws that prevent politicians spreading misleading and deceptive information, but the two major parties just refused to introduce such laws.
“Poor oversight of political donations creates an environment in which undue influence can flourish. Tasmanians deserve better.
“The public needs to be able to make informed decisions about the candidates and political parties they are being asked to vote for – including where their donations are coming from.
“We welcome the amendment that clarifies that raising awareness, educating the public or encouraging debate on a policy issue is not captured by the definition of electoral matter. This is in line with recommendations of the Australia Institute and is an important step to protect charities who work on public policy.
“With an election looming, these bills remain woefully inadequate. The major parties should seriously reconsider their approach and deliver much-needed reforms before Tasmanians head to the polls.”
Tasmania’s leading civil society organisations have called for the following reforms:
- Requiring truth in political advertising;
- Significantly lowering the proposed donation threshold from $5,000 and guaranteeing real-time disclosure of political donations;
- Fixing the proposed public funding model for campaigns so that it does not favour incumbent MPs over new entrants;
- Broadening the definition of “gift” to capture all payments that might influence politicians;
- Requiring third-party campaigners to disclose relevant donations regardless of when they were made during the electoral cycle;
- Parliament inquiring into a ban on donations from developers and the fossil fuel, tobacco and gambling industries.