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You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC releases broad review of political donation legislation — 20.12.2012
You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC releases broad review of political donation legislation — 20.12.2012
You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC releases broad review of political donation legislation — 20.12.2012

CMC releases broad review of political donation legislation — 20.12.2012

The Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) has produced what is believed to be the first definitive mapping of political donation legislation, positioning Queensland’s regulatory framework within a national and international context.

The review, announced in September and conducted by the CMC’s Applied Research and Evaluation unit, looks at specific legislative provisions aimed at reducing the risk, or perception, that decision-makers can be improperly influenced.

Its findings are contained in today’s release of a report entitled The regulation of political donations and gifts in Queensland (PDF).

Director, Applied Research and Evaluation, Dr Rebecca Denning said the CMC, as the state’s independent misconduct oversight agency, had an important role to play in contributing to high-level discussion on the topic. She said the report primarily aimed to inform a policy and specialist audience.

‘We have a long history of examining public policy and providing an evidence base for discussion and reform,’ Dr Denning said.

‘The topic of political donation legislation deserves ongoing consideration across all jurisdictions, particularly in light of the fact that it is not just the risk of actual corruption, but the perception of it, that can severely undermine the integrity of the political process and the public’s confidence in it.’

Dr Denning explained that the vast majority of financing for political parties and candidates came from private sources, adding that this was considered to be a legitimate exercise of political association and expression.

Broadly, she said an effective regulatory framework aimed to reduce the risk of corruption and increase the transparency and integrity of the political process, as well as the accountability of and equity between key participants.

‘Queensland’s regulatory framework includes provisions that prohibit and restrict donations, require the disclosure and reporting of donations, and establish compliance and enforcement mechanisms,’ she said.

‘Our report positions Queensland’s state and local government provisions on a continuum of more or less regulation, and compares our framework to the other Australian jurisdictions and four comparable international jurisdictions, namely the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand.

‘It is hoped that by bringing this level of detail together in one document, overall understanding of what can only be described as a complex subject will be improved, in turn dispelling misconceptions about the giving and receiving of political donations and gifts in Queensland.’

Dr Denning said it was important to qualify that no value judgement should be attached to comparative analysis between the jurisdictions on the basis of more or less regulation.

She said the purpose of the report was to situate Queensland objectively within a cross-jurisdictional context as opposed to assessing the effectiveness of the state’s regulatory framework. Given the limited scope of the review, the CMC has not attempted to make recommendations for reform.

That said, the report summarises key findings as follows:

At the state government level, the CMC’s review found:

  • Queensland’s electoral donation caps are among the lowest of all comparable jurisdictions, and therefore provide the most regulation of electoral donations. Where Queensland has prohibitions on donations, these also generally provide more regulation than in other jurisdictions. However, Queensland’s scheme prohibits considerably fewer types of donations overall.
  • Queensland imposes disclosure obligations on participants in the political process that are generally similar to or stricter than most other jurisdictions. The exception is ‘special reporting of large gifts’, where Queensland’s scheme involves less regulation than other jurisdictions because it has a substantially higher disclosure threshold, requires less frequent reporting, and applies to fewer political participants.
  • Queensland’s compliance and enforcement mechanisms are similar to most other jurisdictions in terms of the regulatory authority’s (Electoral Commission Queensland’s [ECQ’s]) role and powers and the nature of offences for regulatory breaches. However, Queensland has lower penalties than some overseas jurisdictions for offences related to prohibited donations and donation caps, and significantly lower penalties than a number of jurisdictions for disclosure offences. 

At the local government level, the CMC’s review found:

  • The prohibitions Queensland places on particular types of donations provide the most regulation of all Australian jurisdictions. However, Queensland’s overall scheme of prohibitions provides less regulation than the New South Wales (NSW) scheme, which prohibits donations from a much wider range of sources. As in all other jurisdictions, there are no donation caps for Queensland local government elections.
  • Queensland’s disclosure obligations for candidates, councillors and third parties at the local government level are similar to or higher than most other jurisdictions. Notably, however, disclosure returns in Queensland take a much longer time to be made available to the public when compared with other jurisdictions.
  • Queensland’s compliance and enforcement mechanisms are largely similar to those in other Australian jurisdictions. Once again, the ECQ’s powers to deal with breaches are consistent with those in the other jurisdictions. However, Queensland does not require audited disclosure returns like NSW does and generally has the lowest penalties for offences related to prohibited donations and disclosure offences.

Finally, Dr Denning said the report also identified a number of new trends and initiatives in other jurisdictions. Of note, these include:

  • Increased regulation of third parties: a number of jurisdictions have responded to the increasing role of third party campaigners in political financing and election campaigns by subjecting them to increased regulation.
  • Expansion of the range of prohibited donors: the range of prohibited donors has become more extensive in some Australian and overseas jurisdictions, with corporations, children and foreign donors being common inclusions. Other types of prohibited donors, such as developers, have been included in some jurisdictions in response to perceived risks of undue influence within their sphere.
  • Increased disclosure obligations: a number of jurisdictions have introduced provisions that increase political participants’ disclosure obligations for a specified period prior to an election. This is intended to increase the transparency of donations for voters.
  • Online lodgement and publication of returns: a number of jurisdictions have introduced or are considering online lodgement for disclosure returns, with prompt website publication. Such a strategy is again intended to increase the transparency of political financing by reducing the time it takes for information about donations to be made public.

Read the full report (PDF)

For further information or to request an interview with Dr Rebecca Denning, please contact CMC Media Adviser Shelley Thomas: 07 3360 6275 / 0407 373 803

Last updated: 20 December 2012

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