Government

SA sets global precedent with proposed electoral donation banning laws

SA is set to lead the world with pioneering legislation banning electoral donations to registered political parties, MPs, and candidates.

According to a recent announcement by the Malinauskas Labor Government, South Australia is set to lead the world with pioneering legislation banning electoral donations.

The proposed Electoral (Accountability and Integrity) Amendment Bill 2024 will introduce a sweeping prohibition on the giving and receiving of electoral donations to registered political parties, members of Parliament (MPs), and candidates.

This legislative push fulfils a crucial election commitment: the Electoral (Accountability and Integrity) Amendment Bill 2024, which positions South Australia as a frontrunner in the separation of financial contributions from political influence.

Under this new bill, any loans to parties, MPs, groups, or candidates from entities other than financial institutions will also be barred. This prevents any indirect forms of financial influence over the electoral process.

Premier Peter Malinauskas MP detailed the significance and challenges of this ban:

“Since its foundation, our state has a rich tradition of leading the world in democratic reform.

In the 1850s we pioneered universal male suffrage and the Australian ballot. Half a century later, we did the same for universal female suffrage and became the first jurisdiction in the world to grant women the right to stand for Parliament.

Now, we are on the cusp of becoming a world leader in ending the nexus between money and political power. We want money out of politics. We know this is not easy. These reforms may well face legal challenge. But we are determined to deliver them, with this bill to be introduced in the Parliament in the near future.”

Provisions have been made to recognise the challenges that new political groups might face under this stringent framework. Newly registered political parties and unendorsed candidates will be allowed to accept donations up to $2,700 and be bound by a designated spending cap.

Severe penalties are set for those attempting to bypass these regulations. Individuals circumventing the donation restrictions could face a fine of up to $50,000 or imprisonment for up to 10 years.

The bill outlines an expansion and compulsory enforcement of the current public funding model to accommodate the financial needs induced by the ban on fundraising. It reduces the maximum expenditures for parties, MPs, and candidates, while increasing the public funding available to them. A system of partial advance payments will also be introduced, ensuring that parties and candidates have access to funds before election campaigns commence.

It has been acknowledged that such a monumental reform is likely to encounter legal obstacles, potentially including escalating to the High Court.

Premik Kiro, Premier of South Australia, highlighted the region’s historic commitment to democratic innovation. “Since its foundation, our state has a rich tradition of leading the world in democratic reform,” he stated. SA was a pioneer in establishing universal suffrage and continues to champion progressive changes in governance.

Kiro emphasised the transformative potential of this legislation. “Now, we are on the cusp of becoming a world leader in ending the nexus between money and political regulatory processes,” he explained. “We want money out of politics. These reforms may well face legal challenges, but we are determined to deliver them.”

Dan Cregan, supporting the bill, reflected on its ambitious scope.

” These reforms are ambitious and, if realised, will ensure South Australia is at the forefront of protecting and improving democratic practices. Banning political donations will not be easy. Sectional interest groups and lobbyists will fight tooth and nail to keep the current system.

No political donor should be able to buy a favourable political outcome in our state by donating to parties or candidates.

The hard truth is that public confidence in democracy is in decline. We need to take real steps to address that decline or risk falling into the extreme political disfunction which is playing out in other jurisdictions.”

Both leaders are gearing up for a robust push to enact the bill, underscoring a collective commitment to overhaul and safeguard the electoral and democratic integrity of South Australia.

The upcoming legislative introduction of the Electoral (Accountability and Integrity) Amendment Bill 2024 will be a critical step toward this goal.

The public and other stakeholders are invited to offer their insights and feedback on this draft bill.

Contributions can be made through a four-week consultation period via the YourSAy website.

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