Disclosure enforced on political donations, spending in electoral reform laws

The State Government will enforce disclosure surrounding political donations, expenditure caps for election campaigns and bans for all foreign donations, with the introduction of new legislation.

Laws involving electoral reform commitments were announced on Thursday, that will involve penalties for exceeding spending caps.

Under the legislation, it will unlawful to accept a political donation unless the donor is an Australian resident or citizen or has an Australian Business Number.

The legislation will reduce the political donation threshold to $1,000, with all political parties required to operate under the new threshold.

The post-election disclosure reporting requirement will also be reduced from 15 weeks after the day of the election to 12 weeks.

Expenditure caps will be also be introduced, with registered political parties and independent candidates will able to spend $125,000 for each district or region being contested from October 1.

Political parties will be able to spend over the capped amount in a particular district or region, but overspends would need to be balanced out by a reduction on other districts or regions.

Other groups that are not political parties, candidates or Legislative Council Groups, will be capped at $2 million.

Civil and criminal penalties apply for anyone who exceeds the expenditure cap, with an overspend less than 20 per cent of the cap resulting in a fine of twice the overspend, while an overspend more than 20 per cent can result in a two-year prison sentence and a fine of three times the overspend.

Electoral Affairs Minister Stephen Dawson said the changes are about fairness.

“These rules are for everyone and this Bill is about transparency, integrity and accountability,” Mr Dawson said.

“This Bill will ensure the public have confidence in the accountability, transparency and integrity of elections and donations in Western Australia.”

However, the State Opposition has criticised the changes, stating the government’s improvements needed to include the spend of unions around election campaigns.

“If you have a look at the last election in this State, the unions spent more collectively than either of the political parties,” Opposition Leader Liza Harvey said.

“So if there are changes to the Electoral Act that don’t include caps on union spend during the campaign, I doubt it will have the support in the Legislative Council.”

“I have no doubt this legislation is targeted at Clive Palmer. You have to have a fair playing field.”

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