An article by Bob Burton, recently published on Tasmanian Times, prompted Geoff Capper and Pat Synge to form a new ‘not for profit’ organisation: Funding & Disclosure (Inc). ( Will voters find out who is funding local government election campaigns? )
The group now has members and ‘friends’ from around Australia and aims to:
• lobby for better funding disclosure laws at all levels of government
• facilitate political funding disclosure
• increase awareness of the issue and provide forums for discussion
Their website ( http://www.fundinganddisclosure.org.au ) will give all candidates in the upcoming Tasmanian local government elections and the NSW by-elections the opportunity to disclose in ‘real-time’ all donations and gifts they have received in the last 24 months.
As Bob Burton pointed out in his article; there is no legal requirement for candidates in the Tas local government elections to make any disclosures about the source of any money they spend on electioneering. 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).
Candidates never have to disclose whether they are self-funded or have received donations. And don’t forget; 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 the current no-disclosure situation to lead to corruption is obvious.
As Pat Synge 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 big parties we decided to help create the expectation among voters that all donations should be declared. And, importantly, that these should be declared before we go to vote; not like with the Federal system where donations are only disclosed 18 months after the election (and, even then, only some of them). Those candidates who want to declare their funding can now easily do so, on our website. Those who don’t will be highlighted. Simple. This ‘real time’ online disclosure will be a first in Australia. Voters will be able to visit the site before voting, check out who has made a commitment to transparency, and vote accordingly.”
Candidates will also be offered the opportunity to post a 200 word personal statement and the invitation to state that:
• I agree that all donations and gifts to local government candidates should be publicly declared.
• In principle, I would support appropriate legislation requiring such disclosure.
When you visit the F&D website you find that the disclosures will be uploaded from the 30th September (when nomination for candidates closes). This will give every candidate the same opportunity to disclose. Voting in the Tasmanian local government elections starts on the 14th October and the NSW by-elections are on Saturday 25th.
In the meantime there are links to their Facebook and Twitter pages where there is all sorts of information about political funding, including many reports from the current NSW ICAC enquiry that’s uncovering what could fairly be described as systemic rot in the current system.
All comment and suggestions are welcomed. If you feel that this is a worthwhile initiative then let your friends know. Email a link to the site or ‘share’ on Facebook or whatever social media sites you use. It’s only by reaching critical mass that F&D is going to have an impact.
People power through “internet democracy” is here but will only really become a reality if we actually use it.
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