Big money from industries like fossil fuels, gambling, alcohol, defence, tobacco and property has a “corrosive influence” on politics and must be banned, says Greens candidate for the seat of Canberra Tim Hollo.
In fact, Mr Hollo believes banning political donations is of greater priority than introducing a federal integrity commission.
Mr Hollo, who is trying to unseat Labor incumbent Alicia Payne in the lower house, has pledged his first action if elected would be to introduce a bill to the House of Representatives that would seek to ban political donations from the aforementioned industries.
It would also cap all political donations, including those from individuals, at $1000.
He described doing so as a “crucial first step in making sure we can move on all the other issues our community cares about”.
Integrity and discussions about what a federal Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) could look like have proved popular issues with voters in this year’s election.
Mr Hollo welcomed what he described as “real momentum towards a strong anti-corruption commission” but said controlling donations was more important.
“The problem is, too much of the corruption in our system is perfectly legal and supposedly above board. Until we get donations under control, an anti-corruption commission can’t actually stop the main source of corruption: big money buying influence,” he said.
“I want to make my and the Greens’ position absolutely clear: any claims to want greater integrity in Australian politics count for nothing unless you actually vote to get big money out of politics.”
Prime Mister Scott Morrison has been an outspoken critic of the NSW model of the ICAC, previously describing it as a ‘kangaroo court’. But during the final leaders’ debate earlier this week, Mr Morrison said he was further ahead than the Opposition because his party had prepared legislation.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese rejected this assertion.
“We do need to clean up politics, and we need a national anti-corruption commission and one with teeth,” Mr Albanese said. He has previously described the Liberals’ proposed ICAC as weak.
The two major independents in the Senate race in the ACT – David Pocock and Kim Rubenstein – have also run on platforms that have prioritised integrity.
The donations reform bill Mr Hollo would seek to introduce would be based on an earlier attempt at reform from Greens’ Senator Larissa Waters. However, that bill was never brought on for debate, as “Liberals, Nationals and Labor would not prioritise it”.
According to Mr Hollo, Labor and the Liberals have taken over $200 million in corporate donations in the last decade, and if a large crossbench were elected in both houses, his bill could not be ignored by the governing party.
His colleagues in the ACT Legislative Assembly have called for similar reforms to be implemented locally.
Earlier this week, an ABC investigation reported more than $12.5 million of the $13 million donated by gambling groups in the ACT in the decade to June 2020 went to the Labor Party and its associated entities. Most came from the ALP-owned Labor Club and its investment vehicle.
ACT Greens MLA Andrew Braddock said the Territory should follow the lead of NSW and ban donations from gambling entities entirely.
The ACT Elections Commission and Standing Committee for Justice and Community Safety last year recommended the Government examine reintroducing a $10,000 cap on political donations. The committee also recommended the government explore options for banning donations from tobacco, liquor and gambling entities and associated industry representative bodies.
Proposed reforms to the Electoral Act will be brought forward to the ACT Legislative Assembly in the second half of this year.
Region Media has contacted ACT Labor for comment.