The banning of political donations from property developers is among 23 recommendations in the report of the Select Committee on the 2016 ACT Election and Electoral Act tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Friday (1 December 2017).
The report also recommends that the ACT maintain its current timeframe for reporting donations, rejects a push that the voting age be lowered to 16 and calls for limited electronic voting to be investigated.
The recommendation to ban donations from property developers echoes NSW legislation, which is currently under review, and ACT Labor Party policy, although there is contention about whether the Labor Club should be considered to be a developer.
The Canberra Liberals, however, submitted that the definition of property developer was unclear and that a ban would also capture small family businesses in the ACT.
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“The bulk of property developers in town are just small family businesses. Should they have any less right to be politically involved? That is the problem with the suggestion, that is, it treats people as different class citizens because of a profession they have,’’ it said.
The party stressed that the transparency of donations was a more efficient approach to the regulation of donations, rather than banning particular industries.
While supporting the ban, the ACT Greens issued a dissenting report calling for the reinstatement of restrictions on donations in general including limiting them to persons enrolled to vote in the ACT, and that election donations by entities (individuals, corporations or organisations) to parties and individual candidates be restricted to a maximum of $10,000 a year.
The 2016 Electoral Commission warned that if a ban was implemented it would require extra resources to police it, and recommended that any decision on a ban await the outcome of the review of the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 (NSW) (the EFED Act).
The committee recommended that parties and candidates still must disclose all gifts and loans totalling $1,000 or more, within seven days from 1 July through to polling day in an election year.
On the issue of lowering the voting age to 16, the committee said it was one obvious way to increase voter participation but acknowledged that the community’s views were unclear and that there were practical current legislative requirements, including the need for a two-thirds majority of the members of the Legislative Assembly and a majority of electors at a referendum.
The Greens said it would remain a contentious issue and could be a useful topic for a citizen’s jury or other further investigation.
But the committee did recommend that the Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development, in consultation with the Education Directorate, develop and include civics and citizenship education as part of the ACT Year 11 and 12 curricula.
On electronic voting, the committee recommended that the ACT Electoral Commissioner report to the Assembly, by the last sitting day in June 2018, the results of the investigation into the provision of both a limited electronic voting option for electors who are overseas and a similar electronic voting option for blind and visually impaired electors.
The Committee also recommended that the ACT Electoral Commission or other appropriate body provide a detailed proposal, including costs of setting up and maintaining a website, mobile app and printed material, with details of candidates at Legislative Assembly Elections, starting with the 2020 ACT election.
The Government said it would respond to the committee’s report in the New Year.
To view the report go here.
Should property developers be banned from donating to political parties? Do you agree with the Greens that previous restrictions on donations should be reinstated? Should we all be voting electronically? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.