Adam Bandt has expressed concerns about the practice of capping donations while still allowing cash-for-access dinners. He believes this is not a genuine reform, but rather a deceptive tactic. He is cautioning the major political parties against potentially working together to limit the chances of independent and minor party candidates being elected.
At the national conference of the Greens on Saturday, the party’s leader raised concerns about Labor and the Coalition’s attempts to manipulate the electoral funding system. They claim that these efforts will create an unfair playing field for Greens candidates and independents.
The Albanese administration has promised to implement limits on spending and donations, as well as laws requiring honesty in political advertisements. These policies were first uncovered by Guardian Australia after the 2022 election and were later confirmed by a parliamentary investigation that concluded in July.
The Minister of State, Don Farrell, has stated that no agreement has been made yet. He plans on reaching out to all members of parliament for support. However, the crossbench is becoming more concerned that the reform package will favor current officeholders by increasing public funding for elections, while also restricting community fundraising.
During his address, Bandt declared that the two-party system is on its way out. He pointed to the fact that the combined vote share of Labor and the Coalition has decreased from 98% in 1951 to 68% in the most recent election. This resulted in a record-breaking crossbench of 16 elected parliamentarians, including four from the Greens party.
He stated that there is a high possibility that the established political parties will try to keep their failing system afloat at the cost of the public.
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Bandt claimed that both Labor and the Coalition are not likely to give up easily and there is a possibility of a significant battle ahead.
Bandt mentioned “speculation in Canberra” and acknowledged that the Greens have not yet seen all the specifics of the government’s reform plan, but cautioned members about “what we believe is on the horizon”.
He stated that there are limits on donations for challengers, more money is given to those in office, and permission is granted for undisclosed corporate funds to support politicians.
“If you’re already elected, you get a hefty envelope full of cash, but if you’re trying to get elected, you don’t.
The establishment parties will receive approval for utilizing loopholes such as business forum memberships or cash-for-access dinners.
“A corporation buying five $10,000 tickets to a Labor or Liberal dinner party is allowed, but you giving a direct donation to a local candidate in your suburb could be restricted or outlawed.”
At the moment, there is no set maximum amount for donations to political parties. However, any donations over $16,300 must be reported. The Labor party has not specified a specific donation limit, but they are considering lowering the reporting threshold to $1,000 and implementing real-time reporting.
Bandt stated that the Greens are willing to pursue authentic electoral reform, but collaborating on underhanded agreements would be detrimental to representative democracy. He criticized the dominant parties for attempting to manipulate the system in order to maintain their political dominance.
Bandt acknowledged the importance of honesty in politics and mentioned the referendum in which the Greens leader accused opposition leader Peter Dutton of running a campaign full of false information, similar to Trump’s tactics, which could hinder the progress of reconciliation.
The Greens have 11 Senate votes, giving them significant influence, but they risk being overlooked if one of the major parties makes a deal. This has motivated Bandt to voice his concerns before Labor introduces their legislation, which is expected to happen either later this year or early in 2024, just in time for the upcoming election.
According to Bandt, the Labor party leans towards the political centre-right, as seen through their endorsement of Aukus nuclear submarines and tax reductions for the wealthy. In contrast, he portrays the Greens as the leading social democratic option in Australia.
He stated that this is the reason they aim to exclude those who vote for the Green party or independent candidates.
Both the Labor and Coalition parties affirm that there has been no agreement on limits for election expenses and donations.
Farrell stated on Monday that the entire process is open to discussion.
“I am currently engaged in discussions with various political parties to find a common ground on how we can improve transparency and accountability within the federal election system,” the politician stated during a press conference in Canberra.
“I believe that electoral reform is most effective when everyone is in agreement – and that is what I will strive to achieve.”
Climate 200, the organization that raised funds for the independent candidates with teal branding, asserts that established political parties and those currently holding office already possess significant advantages.
Simon Holmes à Court, the organizer of Climate 200, stated that he will be monitoring the reforms to ensure they go beyond just transparency and do not limit competition, ultimately solidifying the dominance of the two main political parties as public backing for them decreases.