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Caps on donations and greater transparency key to saving our democracy from big business influence: Senate Inquiry

Media Release
Richard Di Natale 6 Jun 2018

The Australian Greens today called upon Labor and the Liberals to back reforms to cap political donations and increase transparency to help restore the public’s faith in our democracy, following the release of a blockbuster report into the influence of these donations in Australia.

Leader of the Australian Greens Dr Richard Di Natale, who served as Chair of the Senate Select Committee into the Political Influence of Donations, said the report threw open a curtain on the sordid underbelly of influence peddling in Canberra.

“Sadly this report shows that cash is still king in Australian politics, with big business happy to throw millions of dollars at our political leaders to buy influence,” Dr Di Natale said.

“We need serious reform of political donations to put an end to the cosy relationship between big business and political parties. Donors must be able to give no more than $3,000 per Parliamentary term and there should be limits on what political parties can spend during elections too.

“Right now donors can give over $100,000 every year and split their donations so they don’t hit the disclosure threshold, meaning the AEC has no legal authority to investigate these gifts.

“This allows dark money to flow into the old parties’ war chests without scrutiny to buy a change of policy or as a thank-you for keeping an unfair status quo.

“We must also abolish these dodgy ‘business memberships’ that allow companies to gift hundreds of thousands of dollars a year with zero scrutiny, like some companies paying over $110,000 a year to both the Liberals and Labor, which they’d have us believe was just for a few dinners and a chat.

“These reforms are the cornerstone of the 14 recommendations from the Select Committee Report, and will prevent a large portion of the influence peddling currently infesting our political system.

“If the Liberals and Labor knock back against these safeguards, it shows their true allegiance lies with corporate Australia, not the Australian people.”

Australian Greens Democracy Spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said this inquiry also revealed the farce of the Turnbull government’s so-called electoral funding reforms.

“It is useless to attempt to prohibit foreign donations while leaving open the floodgates for domestic donations,” Sen. Rhiannon said.

“We welcomed Labor’s support in 2017 for our Senate motion which called for caps on domestic donations and electoral expenditure. If Labor is serious about reforming our democracy, they will join the Greens in supporting the report’s recommendations.

“Elections should be a contest of ideas, not bank transfers,” said Senator Rhiannon.

The report can be found here:

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