Electoral Legislation: A Flawed Bill
In a speech praised by longstanding Liberal MLC Inga Peulich as "probably the best speech that I have heard in my 22 years of Parliament", Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins set out succinctly her reasons for opposing the Andrews Government's Electoral Legislation Amendment Bill 2018.
"At the heart of this bill there is a proposal to significantly shift the source for funding electoral campaigns from donors, who freely choose to financially support particular candidates or parties, to the Victorian taxpayer. This proposal is philosophically unsound, it is antidemocratic and quite simply it fails the pub test. " Dr Carling-Jenkins
Dr Carling-Jenkins then invited MPs to ask punters at their local whether they would be happy,as tax payers, to fund the electoral campaigns of those political parties and candidates whose views they find most abhorrent.
"I know, for example, that my pro‑life supporters would be appalled if they knew that more of their taxes would be used to fund the electoral campaigns of those members who voted for assisted suicide and euthanasia. And I suspect most Greens supporters would not be happy to be funding my election campaign either."
The Greens did not know quite how to respond to this observation.
A Greens amendment to the Bill, which will be debated after Parliament resumes on 24 July, would increase the amount of taxpayer funding given directly to the Greens party under the bill from $320,000 each year to $650,000.
The Bill would cap donations from an individual to a party or candidate at $4000 and require the name of all donors who give $1000 or more to be publicly disclosed. Dr Carling-Jenkins commented;
"Capping donations at $4000 per person is supposedly designed to avert the harm of buying political influence, but do we really suppose that because a member receives a donation of, say, $5000 from a supporter that that member is going to vote in a corrupt manner? Donating freely to the election campaigns of candidates and parties who share your political values and ideological views is an essential part of the system of representative democracy guaranteed by the constitution of Australia and is inherent to a free society."
In regards to the $1000 disclosure threshold, she said;
"This bill also proposes an absurdly low disclosure threshold of $1000. This seems quite unnecessary. Again, do we really think that members in this place will vote corruptly based on such a small donation?"
The Bill passed the second reading by 22 votes to 18. However, debate on amendments has been divisive and it is not clear what will happen when debate resumes in late July. However, one thing is clear. Dr Carling-Jenkins will continue to oppose political parties plundering the taxpayers pockets.