The NSW Parliament has just passed passed the Election Funding and Disclosures Amendment Bill 2010. Details are here.
It includes donations capped at $5,000 for parties and $2,000 for candidates and third parties, all donations over $1,000 declared, caps on expenditure for parties, candidates and third parties, reimbursement of election spending up to a reasonable limit, and provision of funding for policy development. Donations from developers, tobacco companies, profit-driven liquor and gambling businesses are banned.
This is the first legislation in any Australian parliament to cap political donations and electoral expenditure. The Act commences on 1 January 2011. It is the outcome of a joint standing committee established by the Government in March of this year to ‘inquire into a public funding model for political parties and candidates to apply at the State and local Government levels’. It is a strong move towards the Canadian model of political financing which is the most transparent in the Westminster countries.
Given the murky history of political contributions in New South Wales, it is a very welcome recognition of the need to remove political funding from private interest, and an endorsement of the view which I share that public funding is a small price to pay for clean government. It’s also infinitely better law than what’s waiting in the wings here.