The Queensland Parliament has passed a bill to reform the financing of elections by placing caps on donations and election spending.
- The election spending caps come into effect in August and apply to the October 31 state election
- The bill has been praised by anti-corruption experts at The Centre of Public Integrity
- The new laws also address issues arising from conflict-of-interest controversies involving Jackie Trad
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath told the House the “bill is historic and nation-leading”.
“My hope is that it will lead to politics being a battle of ideas, rather than a battle of bank balances,” Ms D’Ath said.
The election spending caps, which come into effect in August and apply to the October 31 state poll, will be set at $57,000 for candidates endorsed by a political party, or $87,000 if independent, in addition to a cap on political parties of $92,000 per seat.
The laws would also restrict third-party organisations, including unions, political action groups like GetUp and industry bodies, to spend $87,000 in a single electorate, with an overall cap of $1 million.
But the individual donation caps of $10,000 per term and an associated increase in public funding of electoral candidates will not come into effect until 2022.
The Palaszczuk Government agreed to a range of amendments to its original bill, including technical changes to remove the impact on small not-for-profit organisations that wished to engage in the political process.
“I am satisfied that with these changes having been made, all participants will have an opportunity to have their voices heard,” Ms D’Ath said.
The bill has been praised by the anti-corruption experts at The Centre of Public Integrity.
But the Opposition opposed the bill, partly because they believed it gave an unfair advantage to Labor, which could draw on the support of multiple unions.
“The Palaszczuk Government has launched a full-frontal assault on the democratic process in Queensland,” Shadow Attorney-General David Janetzki told Parliament.
The Opposition also complained the Government pushed through hundreds of amendments to the bill with little notice.
“Is it not sad that this House is so severely curtailed that there is going to be no scrutiny of the 229 amendments over 100 pages?” Mr Janetzki said.
‘Weak and watered down’ anti-corruption laws, Opposition says
The bill also includes the so-called ‘Trad Laws’, in response to issues arising from conflict-of-interest controversies involving former deputy premier Jackie Trad.
Ms Trad resigned from Cabinet last month after the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) announced it would be investigating her involvement in the selection process of a school principal.
She had also apologised for not declaring her husband’s purchase of a Woolloongabba investment property near a major infrastructure project for which she was responsible.
The CCC cleared the South Brisbane MP of corruption allegations, but called for harsher penalties for politicians who failed to update their register of interest.
The Government said it had taken on board this recommendation by introducing new offences for ministers who behaved dishonestly and with an intention to obtain a benefit for themselves.
But Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the new laws were “weak and watered down”.
“It is a disgraceful and blatant subversion of what the CCC called for,” Ms Frecklington said.
Ms Trad used her time on the floor to apologise to her constituents and her family following the Woolloongabba housing saga and to throw her support behind the laws as they stood.
“These are important measures,” Ms Trad said.
“I fundamentally believe in being accountable.
“I think the Attorney-General has presented a fair balance — there must be intention, there must be deceit, and there must be dishonesty.”
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