New state parliament laws aim to crack down on political donations

Political parties would be required to disclose donations within a month of receiving them – shrinking to a week during election campaigns – under new laws set for the state parliament.

Electoral Affairs Minister John Quigley has secured Cabinet approval for a new package of reforms aimed at making campaign finance more transparent.

Under the current regime, parties must disclose donors once a year.

A spokesperson for Mr Quigley said the changes were a campaign promise.

“In line with our electoral commitment, the government is working to introduce a new tranche of amendments to the electoral law during this term,” the spokesperson said.

Camera iconJohn Quigley, Minister for Electoral Affairs. Credit: Ross Swanborough/western australia

“This will include things like improving disclosure laws to ensure faster disclosure of donations, among other things.”

The new laws were drafted after the McGowan government’s initial campaign reform package failed to pass the Legislative Council before the last state election.

The government did not have the numbers in the Upper House to pass the Election Amendment Bill 2020, which was sent to committee.

The bill, which sought to cap third-party funding, was introduced amid fears that Clive Palmer would buy an election with his unprecedented publicity blitz.

The legislation capped that funding at $2 million and prevented individuals or parties from spending more than $125,000 for each seat they contested.

The reforms would limit campaign funding to $8.125 million per election, assuming candidates for each of the 59 Lower House seats and all six Upper House regions are supported.

Parties would have been free to distribute that $8.125 million among seats and regions as they saw fit, with no maximum cap for individual electorates.

Critics of the legislation feared independent candidates — who would be capped at $125,000 — would be outspent by larger parties.

The bill also sought to ban political donations from foreign sources. The Commonwealth government passed similar laws in late 2018.