For the first time in Australia candidates in elections at all levels of government and in all states will have the opportunity to in disclose in ‘real-time’ all donations and gifts they have received in the last 24 months.
The new website http://www.fundinganddisclosure.org.au will offer candidates in the NSW by-elections (25th October) and the Tasmanian local government elections (14th – 28th October) a means of demonstrating their commitment to transparency and accountability.
With the NSW by-elections having been caused by a lack of transparency in this area (and worse) this should be welcomed by all candidates.
Tasmania has the distinction of being the only state in the country where there is no requirement for local government candidates make any disclosures whatsoever about the source of any money they spend and they can spend unlimited amounts on self-promotion prior to the very limited election period during which they are limited to $5000 ($8000 for mayoral candidates). Decisions made by local government impact directly on our day to day lives. Councillors make planning decisions that can have big dollar outcomes for corporations and individuals. The potential for this current no-disclosure situation to lead to corruption is obvious.
As Patrick Synge, one of the founders of the ‘not for profit’ Funding & Disclosure (Inc) points out: “We hear a lot about the future role of the internet in the democratic process.
“But the future is now. Rather than futilely lobby government to change laws that favour the status quo we created this site in the hope that it will foster among voters the expectation that all donations should be declared.
“And that these should be declared in ‘real time’: before we vote. Under the federal system donations are only disclosed 18 months after the election and, even then, only some of them.
“Candidates who want to declare their funding can now easily do so, on our website and can also post a 200 word statement outlining what they feel they will contribute if elected. Those who don’t will be highlighted.
“This ‘real time’ online disclosure will be a first in Australia. Voters will be able to visit the site before voting and find out who has made this commitment to transparency, and vote accordingly.”
Candidates will also be invited to state that:
• I agree that all donations and gifts to candidates should be publicly declared in ‘real time’.
• In principle, I would support appropriate legislation requiring such disclosure.
When you visit the F&D website you find that disclosures will be uploaded from the 30th September (when nominations have closed). This will give every candidate the same opportunity to disclose.
There are also links to their Facebook and Twitter pages where there is comprehensive information about political funding issues, including many reports from the current NSW ICAC enquiry.
That this type of corrupt behaviour is being brought to light in NSW is not because such corruption is unique in this state but simply because they have the most rigorous disclosure laws and a robust ICAC.
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