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A stronger electoral system for the ACT

By Canfan - 28 November 2014 5

The Attorney-General, Simon Corbell, yesterday tabled two reports into the ACT Electoral Act and introduced legislation to improve our electoral system.

“The amendments to the Electoral Act build on the existing electoral system by strengthening the regulatory framework that supports transparent and accountable electoral expenditure, without diminishing the accountability of parties and electoral candidates.” Mr Corbell said.

On 20 March 2014, the ACT Legislative Assembly established a Select Committee on Amendments to the Electoral Act 1992 to consider a number of matters related to electoral reform in the ACT. The Electoral Commission has also published the Report to the Legislative Assembly on proposed changes to the Electoral Act 1992, which provides valuable input to address technical and operational matters.

The Attorney-General announced that amendments to the Electoral Act support most of the recommendations of the Select Committee, some of which include:

  • Lower electoral expenditure caps for both individual candidates and parties.
  • Increasing public funding for eligible votes from $2 to $8 per eligible vote received.
  • Consistent treatment of anonymous gifts.
  • Bringing financial reporting responsibilities into line with modern business practices.

The Bill also implements most of the recommendations made by the Electoral Commission in relation to campaign finance, including:

  • Clarifying disclosure requirements for gifts received by ministers.
  • Extending the deadline for lodgement of annual returns to assist parties to provide accurate reports, but still make information publicly available prior to elections.
  • Revising a number of reporting requirements to assist compliance without reducing accountability and transparency.

In addition to these areas, the Bill removes the limits on donations to candidates and parties, eliminating any unintended incentive to circumvent controls on electoral funding, while still maintaining strict reporting requirements. These requirements, with the reduced election expenditure caps and increase in public funding, work to support a robust and transparent electoral funding scheme.

“The government responses and the accompanying legislation will result in clearer electoral regulation, including less onerous reporting responsibilities, without diminishing the accountability of parties and electoral candidates,” Mr Corbell said.

“The responses will result in a greater alignment with modern accounting practices and use of the internet to communicate. The Bill also makes a number of technical amendments to clarify the operation of the Act.
“The changes agreed to in the government responses will strengthen the integrity of our electoral system as the cornerstone of a robust democracy and a society in which citizens can truly participate.”

(Simon Corbell Media Release)

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5 Responses to
A stronger electoral system for the ACT
Queanbeyanite 12:02 pm 29 Nov 14

Further to rommeldog56:

”Increasing public funding for eligible votes from $2 to $8 per eligible vote received.”

Perhaps voters should have to hand it over on their way into the voting booths to focus their minds on value for money.

This isn’t an electoral reform problem, it’s local council overreach. They should stick to garbage removal, sewage and maintaining roads and let special interest groups fund their own boondoggles.

It was either Tyler (or Tocqueville) who claimed:
“A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.” in this case local councillors.

HiddenDragon 5:44 pm 28 Nov 14

I assume there would be bi (if not tri) partisan support for not following the lead from across the border and banning donations from developers (quelle surprise). Still, in the even more unlikely event that we also got ourselves an ICAC, it could have made things so much more entertaining in our sleepy town.

Garfield 3:25 pm 28 Nov 14

I’d like to see the current and former MLA’s who contribute to this site explain how the massive increases in public funding to the major political parties in recent years is good for the people of Canberra. In 2012 we started paying more than $340,000 each year (presumably increasing to over $500,000 once we have 25 MLA’s) to the political parties of our MLA’s and now we’re going to increase the election funding from around $500,000 every 4 years to around $2,000,000. On top of that the limits on donations are going to be lifted, thus making it more likely that donors can buy influence.

If we say that Labor & the Liberals get the same sort of vote in 2016 as they got in 2012 they are likely to have 12 seats each, which will result in each of those parties receiving $1.7m to $1.8m of public funding over the life of the next assembly. How is a minor party supposed to compete with that? To me these measures reduce democracy by further entrenching the power of the major parties. I want governments to be elected because they have the best policies for the people, not because they have tilted the playing field so far in their favour that its impossible for new parties with alternative ideas to compete.

rommeldog56 1:50 pm 28 Nov 14

Here is another one :

” In addition to these areas, the Bill removes the limits on donations to candidates and parties, eliminating any unintended incentive to circumvent controls on electoral funding.”

So, is this just a ploy for the ACT political parties to get more/larger donations. Surely not. How could anyone think such a thing.

So, the answer to a cap on donations being an “incentive” to circumvent controls on those donations (is there evidence that this has in fact happened in the ACT ?), is to remove the cap ? Im sure any resultant increase in the size of those donations would be purely coincidential……….

rommeldog56 1:31 pm 28 Nov 14

I love this bit :

” Increasing public funding for eligible votes from $2 to $8 per eligible vote received.”

I’m sure there is a very good spin for why ACTpoliticians are passing legislation so that their own political parties can make more $ out of ACT ratepayers and residents !

Thats a 400% increase ! In total it may not e much extra $ in the great scheme of things but lots of little extra $ and wasted $ takes its toll on the Territory budget – which is already deeply in the red and apparently getting worse with the Mr Fluffy and Light Rail expenditures.

So, how much is this Ratepayer handout to ACT political parties going to cost ?

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