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Broad consensus emerges on electoral finance law

Hon Simon Power
Minister of Justice

22 November 2010 Media Statement

Broad consensus emerges on electoral finance law

Broad political consensus has emerged to progress new electoral finance laws, Justice Minister Simon Power said today.

The Electoral Legislation Select Committee today reported back to Parliament on the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill.

“I’m pleased to announce that cross-party discussions on this bill have been successful,” Mr Power said.

“That means we are now in a position to progress new electoral finance laws to give certainty at next year’s General Election.

“The National-led Government’s electoral finance proposals have now been subject to four rounds of consultation, beginning in April last year, and I’d like to acknowledge other political parties and the public for their constructive engagement on these issues.

“As I said at the beginning of this process, it was vital that the Government achieve a broad public and political consensus for this legislation so we can avoid a repeat of the 2007 Electoral Finance Act, and so far we have managed to do that.”

Mr Power said the Electoral Legislation Committee has made a number of recommendations which the Government supports, including:

• Further refinement of the regulated period so it is more likely to result in a regulated period of approximately three months.
• Prohibiting third-party promoters from spending more than $300,000 (GST inclusive) each on election advertising during the regulated period.
• For the definition of ‘election advertisement’ – clarifying the proposed exemptions for editorial information and personal views published on the Internet.
• For promoter statements – requiring additional information to be included if the promoter is a body corporate or unincorporated body, and requiring promoter statements to be clearly visible or audible.
• Minor increases to the candidate and party campaign expenditure limits for general elections and by-elections.
• Increasing the disclosure threshold for candidate donations and the prohibition on overseas and anonymous donations from $1000 to $1500, and increasing the disclosure threshold for party donations from $10,000 to $15,000.

“The Government has listened to submitters, including the need to have spending caps on parallel campaigners, and supports the limit set by the select committee.

“That limit is more than double that in the 2007 law, and the Government believes it strikes the right balance between addressing concerns that elections can be unfairly influenced and rights of freedom of expression.

“The bill also clarifies that the regulated campaign period is approximately three months from polling day, rather than up to 11 months under the 2007 legislation, which imposed undue restriction on freedom of expression.”

Mr Power also thanked the Electoral Legislation Select Committee and its chair, Amy Adams, for its work on the bill.

The bill forms part of the Government’s package of electoral reforms which includes holding a referendum on the voting system to coincide with next year’s General Election, and establishing a new one-stop shop Electoral Commission. The next stage will transfer the functions of the Chief Registrar of Electors to the Electoral Commission and is expected to be fully operational by 1 October 2012.

Mr Power hopes to have the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill passed into law before the end of the year.

Previous announcements on electoral finance can be found here.


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