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  • Writer's pictureMichael Johnsen

Limit political donations and lift the bans on occupations


It is time the NSW Parliament bites the bullet and introduces bans on organisational political donations.


Consider this, there are no organisations; unions, corporations nor religious groups registered on the NSW electoral roll. Only individuals 18 years of age or older, can be registered to vote, therefore have a direct say in the election of their local Member or Upper House representatives, in a general or by-election.


At the same time, our constitution does not recognise political parties, only the elected member as an individual.


In the case of the Upper House, it is convention only that allows for a departing member to be replaced by another member of the political party they were a member of in the House. This is not absolute as other nominations can be received and voted upon by a joint sitting of both Houses.


Of course, there will be High Court challenges to such legislation, bought by organisations. We have seen the High Court over rule the Parliament recently.



However, while I'm not a lawyer, I cannot see how the High Court could overturn the constitution, knowing that it only recognises individuals with regard to being elected to office.


That said, political donations should not be banned for individuals, regardless of their occupation. if you are required to vote, you should not be banned from donating.


I would propose a $5,000 per annum cap on donations by any individual, as long as they are on the electoral roll.


That amount would hardly be considered to be of bribe value yet, at the same time, allow those that wish to donate to their political candidate, to do so.


Take the situation of a property developer. If they donated $5,000 per annum or $20,000 over the four year parliamentary cycle, and thought that somehow they would receive beneficial treatment for their multi billion dollar project, they would be kidding themselves.


The politician would be in a position of being able to fund their election or re-election campaign and the chances are, many individuals would be willing and able to donate the same amount, thereby reducing the actual and perceived benefit being sought by a few individuals or organisations.


Political donations have been a populist tool and we are seeing it again, in the lead up to the New South Wales election in March.


Let's make it simple, fair and transparent. The legal costs would be reduced dramatically and the focus can remain on policies.



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