NSW moves to ban union election donations

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NSW moves to ban union election donations

The NSW Coalition Government has moved to ban unions from making donations to Labor’s election funds, but Premier Barry O’Farrell expects a High Court challenge to the new laws.

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The NSW Coalition Government has moved to ban unions from making donations to Labor’s election funds, but Premier Barry O’Farrell expects a High Court challenge to the new laws.

The donation ban will also apply to corporations, industrial organisations, peak industry groups, religious institutions and community organisations, and will affect both state and local government elections.

The previous Labor State Government put a cap on election expenditure by parties in each electorate, but a loophole allowed individual unions to spend up to $1 million each running political campaigns.

O’Farrell said the move was an attempt to ‘clean-up campaign finance once and for all’.

Confidence ‘sapped’


‘After 16 years of dishonest and corrupt government under Labor, public confidence in decision making has been sapped in this State,’ he said.

‘The time has come to restore honesty and integrity. This is about putting an end to Labor’s “decisions for donations” culture and restoring community confidence in government and public administration in NSW.’

‘Unions, third-party interest groups, corporations, and non-residents aren’t entitled to vote and they shouldn’t be able to donate.’

O’Farrell said the Bill will also ensure the new restrictions cannot be circumvented by corporate entities channelling donations through individuals.

End the ‘rort’
 
He said the legislation will also end the ‘rort’ established by Labor, supported by the Greens, which allowed the unions to spend up to $23 million in support of the ALP through proxy campaigns.

‘It will require political parties to include the spending of union affiliates for the purposes of the limits on campaign expenditure that apply to them,’ O’Farrell said.

‘The legislation does not affect the existing bans on donations by property developers and tobacco, liquor and gaming entities.’

However, in a speech to Parliament, O’Farrell indicated he expected a legal challenge to the legislation.

Constitutional challenge
 
‘It is inevitable that these laws and, I expect, this bill will trigger discussion and debate about constitutional principles,’ he said.

‘It has always been a great excuse to do nothing and a way to justify the status quo.

‘I believe that a ban on donations other than those by individuals does not place unreasonable restrictions on the implied freedom of political communication mandated by the Commonwealth Constitution.’

‘The measures in this bill are designed to rid this State of the risk, reality and perception of corruption and undue influence. To this end, they are consistent with the principles endorsed by the High Court in the Lange case.’
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