Political Donations: Rising ‘Black Money’ Calls for Reform | The Northwest Star

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Major think tanks and environmental groups have sounded the alarm over the volume of ‘dark money’ circulating in federal politics after tens of millions of dollars funneled into the pockets of major parties were allowed to pass unchecked. reported. The Australian Electoral Commission’s annual political donations data dump on Tuesday renewed calls for sweeping reform, including a lowering of the disclosure threshold and real-time reporting of contributions. In the 2020-2021 fiscal year, donations were only required to be disclosed if they were worth more than $14,300. The threshold will increase to $14,500 this fiscal year, in line with the consumer price index. This high bar, which compares to a $1,000 threshold in the ACT, means a donor can make a significant financial contribution to a political party without their identity being revealed. Analysis of the latest donation data by the Australian Conservation Foundation found that more than $62 million in revenue reported by the Labour, Liberal, National and Green party branches in 2020-21 came from unknown sources. That was more than 37% of the $165 million in funding reported by major parties, up from 32% in the prior fiscal year. About 43% of Liberal revenue came from unknown sources, compared to 30% for Labour, 49% for Nationals and 48% for Greens, according to analysis by the conservation foundation. Revenue includes donations as well as other sources of income, including from the electoral commission. Bill Browne, senior fellow at the Australia Institute’s Democracy and Accountability Programme, described the lack of transparency around donations as “distressing” given what he saw as the growing role of money in politics . Mr Browne said donations could be used to access a minister directly, whether at a fundraising event or in a face-to-face meeting. “The reality of access is that it can be hugely helpful to take your case directly to a minister and it’s not a benefit that most ordinary Australians, or indeed most concerned citizens’ groups, have,” did he declare. Mr Browne backed calls for a $1,000 disclosure threshold as well as real-time publication of donations. Under current rules, donations made in the crucial months leading up to this year’s federal election will not be made public until months after Election Day. “Knowing what donations are coming in at the same time as ministers are making decisions would either help confirm that there is no irregularity, or inspire people to dig deeper and see if there is something wrong. concerns them,” he said. Figures released on Tuesday show the Coalition entered the federal election year with bigger campaign coffers than Labour, thanks in part to billionaire businessman Anthony Pratt’s $1.28 million in donations. The Liberals and Nationals together reported more than $83m in revenue in 2020-21, compared to Labour’s $66m. The figures represent the sum total of revenue from state, territorial and national sections of the party. Fossil fuel companies and their representative bodies continue to be prolific donors to the Coalition and Labour. Woodside Energy was the largest donor to the fossil fuel industry, handing $124,000 to the Liberals and $108,000 to Labour. The Minerals Council of Australia, top oil body APPEA and Trevor St Baker also made six-figure donations. Echoing Mr Browne’s comments, Australian Conservation Foundation democracy campaigner Jolene Elberth said donations gave politicians access, which over time translated into influence. “The problem is self-contained: because political parties rely on large donations to run their election campaigns, they have an interest in not sidelining their donors, even when it is in the public interest. READ MORE She said lowering the disclosure threshold, capping donations and requiring more frequent reporting would ‘significantly’ improve the integrity of Australia’s political system. The Greens have been among the staunchest advocates of reform, with their newly unveiled election platform including a policy to ban donations from fossil fuel companies and cap donations at $1,000 a year for all donors. . Greens for Democracy spokeswoman Larissa Waters said data released on Tuesday showed that “big money runs politics, it’s legalized corruption.” “Coal and gas, banking, pokies, alcohol, private healthcare sectors are all very present. Is it any wonder that these sectors are poorly regulated and receive billions in taxpayer aid? ” she said. Our reporters work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. Here’s how you can continue to access our trusted content: