Senate inquiry calls for bans on political donations from defence companies

A new report from a Senate inquiry has called on the government to implement sweeping bans on political donations from multibillion-dollar industries, including defence.

The report, which was prepared by a Greens-dominated panel, sought to examine the influence of money in politics. It put forward 14 recommendations to government for the reform of Australia's political donations and disclosures system.

Recommendation nine of 14 calls for the government to "amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to introduce a ban on donations from developers, banks, mining companies and the tobacco, liquor, gambling, defence and pharmaceutical industries to political parties, candidates and associated entities".

The report also calls for online, continuous real-time disclosure to the Australian Electoral Commission of donations to political parties, candidates and associated entities, as well as caps on campaign expenditure by political parties, candidates and associated entities, indexed to inflation and subject to periodic review.

Coalition senators issued a scathing response to the report, criticising the chair of the inquiry, Greens senator Richard Di Natale.

"Recommendation nine is a blatant targeting of particular groups which do not suit the agenda of the chair and submissions by sympathetic special-interest groups, and thus continues the trend within this report of advocating unequal treatment of political actors," the dissenting report from Coalition senators said.

"This recommendation takes limited evidence, and applies it unquestioningly to industry groups which the chair does not agree with or personally opposes, such as the defence, banking, mining and pharmaceutical industries. Such undemocratic and unequal treatment would undermine the fairness and openness of our political system, and we thus reject this recommendation."

The dissenting report from Labor senators, while largely in agreement with many of the 14 recommendations, also rejected recommendation nine.

"Labor senators do not support recommendation nine. Such industry-specific bans raise constitutional concerns and have been the subject of High Court litigation," the dissenting report from Labor senators said.

"Labor senators note that it is open to political parties to voluntarily decline to accept donations from specific industry sectors. For example, the Australian Labor Party has long refused to accept donations from tobacco companies. Labor senators note that, despite claiming to oppose corporate donations, prior to the 2010 federal election the Australian Greens accepted a $1.7 million donation from Graeme Wood, founder of online travel company Wotif.com. Despite claiming to oppose gambling donations, prior to the 2016 federal election the Australian Greens accepted at $500,000 donation from Duncan Turpie, a high-end gambler and member of the secretive Punters’ Club."

Senate inquiry calls for bans on political donations from defence companies
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