Open Letter Calls for Parliament to Protect Democracy, Close Major Gaps in Electoral Laws

(AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

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Leading civil society organisations have signed an open letter, coordinated by the Australia Institute and published today in The Canberra Times, calling on the Parliament of Australia to safeguard Australia’s democracy by addressing major gaps in the nation’s electoral laws.

The open letter comes as the Albanese Government considers changes to Australia’s electoral system, which is currently ill-equipped to deal with the influence of corporate lobbying and bad faith interests.

Based on research from the Australia Institute and its nine principles for fair political reforms, the five key improvements call on the Parliament to:

  1. Reform public funding for political parties and candidates so new parties and first-time candidates can compete on a level playing field.
  2. Disclose political donations to parties and candidates regularly throughout the year, and lower the donation disclosure threshold.
  3. Introduce truth in political advertising laws to prevent public money being spent on misleading advertisements.
  4. Require politicians to disclose every cash-for-access payment they receive from business and vested interests, such as tickets to exclusive dinners and fundraisers, so industry can no longer lobby elected representatives in secret.
  5. Enshrine the right of charities to advocate for political reform.

“Australia has a proud and internationally recognised history of electoral innovation. The secret ballot, for example, spread across the world as the ‘Australian ballot’, but democracy should never be taken for granted,” said Bill Browne, Director of Democracy & Accountability at the Australia Institute.

“Current gaps in Australia’s electoral system are giving special interests and corporate lobbyists an outsized level of influence on politics and, by extension, how the country is governed.

“While the Albanese Government’s commitment to reviewing the political finance system is welcome, true electoral reform that strengthens Australian democracy will level the playing field for all candidates, reduce the influence of vested interests, and ultimately give voters a range of choices at the ballot box.”

The open letter, as it appears in The Canberra Times

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