Rees falls short on donation reform

By Angela Dorizas
The New South Wales Government ban on political donations from developers does not go far enough to reform election funding, according to Greens MPs, State Opposition and local government.

NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said the ban introduced by Premier Nathan Rees this week included no commitment on banning corporate donations, limiting individual donations or capping election expenditure.

“If Premier Rees really wants to demonstrate he’s putting a new broom through this government he needs to do a lot more than just ban developer donations,” Ms Rhiannon told GovernmentNews.

“The model we have put forward, which is based on what’s happening in Canada and has often been supported by various Labor and Coalition MPs in recent years, is a total ban on donations from corporations and other organisations, a strict limit on donations from individuals, tight caps on how much money can be spent at election time and also bringing in limits on how much third parties can donate and also use in election time.”

Mr Rhiannon said the NSW Government was playing catch-up on banning political donations.

“Mr Rees is a late convert to this because we’ve actually, over many years, we’ve introduced a bill into the NSW Parliament about banning developer donations as the first step to achieving this,” Mr Rhiannon said.

“It’s good that he’s now come on board, so we welcome that, but it certainly needs to be seen as just the first move in a far more reaching reform process.”

Ms Rhiannon called for the immediate disclosure all corporate donations to the Government and Opposition in the lead up to the 2011 state election.

Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell said the Rees Government had failed to cap spending, ban corporate donations and ban lobbyist success fees.

He said the Labor Government urgently needed to address the ‘donations for decisions’ culture that had developed within the planning system.

Local Government Association president Cr Genia McCaffery welcomed the Premier’s announcement on developer donations, but warned of potential loopholes.

“We absolutely support it, but developers could easily step around it,” Cr McCaffery told GovernmentNews.

“I personally do agree with Barry O’Farrell, where you ban all donations except from individuals, and have a cap of $1000. That to me is the sensible thing to do.”

In announcing the ban on donations, Mr Rees said he wanted to change the “perception of campaign funding” within the state.

He introduced an immediate ban on donations from developers to the NSW ALP, introduced legislation to extend the ban on developer donations to all parties and referred campaign spending caps, donation caps and public funding of elections to the NSW Parliament’s Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

The committee is due to report back to Government by March 2010.

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