Government to take action on electoral donations review
The Palaszczuk Government will implement significant reforms to ensure electoral donations to local government candidates are more transparent and accountable, following the review of a recent Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) report.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning Jackie Trad said the Government would implement a range of legislative amendments as early as this year to address six recommendations put forward by the independent watchdog.
The changes build on the Premier’s announcement yesterday that the Government will introduce an electronic real-time donation disclosure system at both a state and local level.
“We know transparency and accountability is paramount when it comes to political donations,” Ms Trad said.
“Queenslanders expect accountability from their candidates at every level, and they have every right to have visibility over electoral donations before heading to the polling booths.
“Yesterday, the Premier announced the Palaszczuk Government would implement real-time, online disclosures of electoral donations to allow for greater transparency during both state and local government elections.
“This means that instead of waiting months to see who is donating to a political party, people will be able to see who is donating and how much they are donating before an election takes place.
“My department will build on this by implementing a range of legislative changes to directly address recommendations made by the CCC’s report, which largely concluded that the governance around local government electoral donations was confusing and did not clearly outline how campaign funds and donations should be treated.
“These changes are based on expert advice from an advisory panel the Government established to review the report, which included representatives from the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) and the Local Government Association of Queensland.
“The Government will be working to amend this legislation as early as this year – well in advance of the next local government elections.
“Through these major reforms, we’re working to ensure Queensland has some of the most progressive, open and transparent political donations laws in the country.”
The legislative amendments include:
- Implementation of a real-time online disclosure system for electoral donations;
- Associations receiving or holding electoral campaign funds will not be permitted to use official titles such as Mayor in the fund’s name unless the association is a controlled entity subject to auditing by the Queensland Audit Office;
- Incorporated associations will not be permitted to receive or hold electoral campaign funds which are intended to be applied for a member’s benefit, either directly or indirectly;
- Candidates will be required to establish a dedicated account that can only be used for gifts and loans received and expenditure made for electoral campaigns, making it easier to trace campaign expenditure;
- Unspent campaign donations will be either held for campaign purposes at a later point, transferred to a registered charity, or returned to the relevant political party.
Ms Trad said while the CCC’s report and recommendations had now been thoroughly reviewed and addressed, the government acknowledged new issues had arisen as a result of donations to candidates in the 2016 Local Government Elections.
“As an example, the ECQ yesterday confirmed they would investigate the financial campaign activity surrounding the Gold Coast City Council Elections and that this matter had also been referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission,” Ms Trad said.
“My agency will work closely with the ECQ and CCC to provide any information and assistance in their investigations as required.
“While we await further information from the ECQ and CCC, I have asked my department for advice on whether the existing legislation is meeting its objectives with regard to relationships between candidates and if any changes are needed to further improve transparency and accountability.
“If further change is required, we will action this as a matter of priority well before the next Council election.”
The CCC’s report ‘Transparency and Accountability in Local Government’ was released in December 2015.