Donations Reforms to Restore Trust and Improve Transparency

The TerritoryLabor Government has introduced amendments to the Electoral Act 2004 to improve the openness, accountability andtransparency of elections, political parties and political donations.

The Electoral Legislation Further Amendment Bill2019 implements recommendations from the Mansfield Inquiry into Options forthe Reform of Political Funding and Donations in the NT.

The independentinquiry conducted by Commissioner John Mansfield was an election commitment.

The proposedamendments regulate political donations and campaign expenditure acrosscandidates, political parties, associated entities and third party campaignersand include:

  • A cap on how much parties and candidatescan spend on a campaign

Anindexed $40,000 cap on electoral expenditure for individual candidates, with apooled cap for political parties. The maximum cap for political partiesstanding candidates in all 25 seats would be $1 million.

  • Improvements to reporting requirementsand disclosure returns in election years and the lead up to election day

Theproposed amendments maximise the availability of uptodate donationinformation that can be accessed by the public when casting their vote.

Thiswill have the effect of focusing on increasing the transparency of politicaldonations and expenditure, particularly in election years.

Thischange will mean that Territorians are informed of what donations parties havereceived pre-polling starts.

  • Reforms to ensure compliance ofassociated entities and third parties with the Electoral Act

TheBill imposes new requirements for disclosures by third party campaigners andassociated groups and caps electoral expenditure for associated groups.

Itrequires both groups to register with the Northern Territory ElectoralCommission (NTEC). NTEC must publish both registers on its website.

  • Imprisonment of up to 10 years and stiffpenalties of up to $232,500

TheBill also contains new offences and penalties to drive compliance with the newscheme.

A list of new offencesand penalties is attached

Given thecurrent fiscal challenges facing the Territory, the Government has deferred theadoption of public funding and therefore a cap on political donations.

Passage of the Billwill mean these reforms are in place in time for the next NT general electionin August next year, with a review post-election.

As noted by the Chief Minister MichaelGunner:

We promised torestore trust in and transparency of the electoral process after the scandalousbehaviour of the CLP and their Foundation 51 slush fund.

Territoriansare entitled to know that the public good, not private interests determinepublic policy in the Northern Territory.

Theimplementation of these recommendations from the Independent Mansfield Inquirymeans greater accountability and transparency for political parties, associatedentities, and third party campaigners.

It also meansthat Territorians will know who and how much has been donated to parties andcandidates before they cast their vote.

While publicfunding and a cap on donations remains Government policy, the fiscal challengescurrently facing the Territory mean now is not the time to ask Territorians tofund political parties and candidates.

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