Securing transparency and diversity in political finance

Reducing the influence of money in politics
by Bill Browne and Benjamin Walters

Targeted reforms are needed to introduce transparency and diversity into federal political finance: disclosing political contributions in real time, publishing ministers’ diaries, stopping the very wealthy from dominating election spending, making public funding accessible to new entrants and restricting corporate cash-for-access payments.

The conventional tools for addressing political finance concerns are public funding, donation caps and spending caps. These tools are blunt instruments that have so far failed to rein in vested interests or address cash-for-access, and they risk many perverse outcomes – most notably, introducing unfair barriers to new entrants, independents and minor parties.

As the Australian Parliament seriously considers changes to electoral laws, including those governing political finance, this paper recommends an alternative suite of political finance reforms that would go a long way to making the political playing field more level and addressing cash-for-access at its roots: exposing it when it happens, making governments pay a political cost for facilitating it and banning it outright where doing so is proportionate, constitutional and likely to be effective.

Securing transparency and diversity in political finance