SA to push ban on political donations

The South Australian government has pledged to press ahead with plans to abolish all donations to political parties following a controversial giveaway from the construction industry union.

The party took up its proposal to ban donations in the March state election, and Premier Peter Malinauskas is determined to get rid of it.

“If I am successful, we will bring about what will be one of the most progressive changes in the workings of parliamentary democracy that we have seen in a generation,” he said.

“My view is that political donations do not improve the democratic process. So let’s remove them from the equation altogether.”

The Prime Minister’s comments came after South Africa’s Labor Party executive decided on Monday to return the $125,000 CFMEU donation that had caused a storm.

The money had been provided by the Victorian branch of the union, led by controversial figure John Setka, ahead of the March election.

In light of Mr Setka’s 2019 conviction for harassing his wife, it prompted Labor to return the money or donate it to a domestic abuse charity.

Mr Malinauskas initially resisted calls to return the money but changed his mind over the weekend after learning of allegations that cars belonging to the Master Builders Association had been vandalized.

He had previously warned that bad behavior in the construction industry would not be tolerated.

But CFMEU SA branch secretary Andrew Sutherland said no allegations of vandalism had been made directly to the union, and he called on the Prime Minister to provide any evidence that union officials or employees were involved.

“If the Prime Minister has any evidence that could help the CFMEU investigate the matter, we ask him to provide it to us without further delay,” Mr Sutherland said in a statement.

“The CFMEU does not authorize, has not authorized, encouraged or sanctioned acts of vandalism.”

More generally, Mr Sutherland said the donation to Labor was made by the Victorian-Tasmanian branch on behalf of its 28,000 members and in cooperation with the 2,000 members of the SA division.

He said it was not done personally by any official and was no different from donations made by any other union.

Regarding the total ban on donations, Attorney General Kyam Maher said work has begun on legislation to implement the change, including addressing constitutional issues.

“As a Labor government, this is something that is close to our hearts,” he said.

“Election campaigns are a contest of ideas, not a contest of money.”