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Real-time donation disclosures will be in place by the next Queensland election.
After years of lobbying, which intensified after the Newman government hitched the state donation declaration limit to the Commonwealth’s indexed threshold, raising it from $1000 to $12,800, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the government would finally follow through on its commitment to independent MP Peter Wellington, 18 months after first making it, and introduce real-time disclosure.
“That means when voters go to the ballot box, they will be fully informed about who is donating to which candidates, and how much they’re donating,” Ms Palaszczuk told a budget estimates hearing on Tuesday.
“Queensland will have some of the most progressive, open and transparent political donations laws in the country.”
Ms Palaszczuk said real-time donations would be in place by the end of the year.
“An implementation plan is currently being considered, but I would envisage that the electronic system will be in place by January 1, and would go live by the end of February,” she said.
“It means that instead of waiting months to see who is donating to a political party, people will be able to see who is donating and how much they are donating before an election takes place.”
But the government won’t be leading the implementation process – the Electoral Commission of Queensland would.
The ECQ has been charged with finding an “appropriate” software provider, after which the government would introduce the necessary legislative amendments to Parliament.
If all went to plan, the changes would be in place by the time the state went back to the polls, scheduled to be before March 2018, but could occur any time from August onwards.
Pundits were preparing for an election in the second half of next year.
Political donations became one of the major issues of the 2015 campaign, particularly those from mining companies. In response, Labor promised to hold a “royal commission-style inquiry” into any links between donations and contracts, tenders and approvals by the government, but was yet to move forward on its commitment. It did follow through with a promise to return the donation declaration threshold back to $1000 and attempted to make its legislation retrospective. Meaning the LNP had to declare donations over $1000 made during the time the donation threshold was $12,800.
The LNP complied, but left more than $100,000 unaccounted for. The ECQ accepted the LNP had attempted to disclose all its donors but was unable to in all cases.
Ms Palaszczuk said Labor’s changes, combined with the real-time declaration announcement, was proof her government was transparent.
But the Queensland Greens said it could go further, by capping donations and banning donations “coming from commercial interests such as property developers, gambling, tobacco and alcohol”.
“What we need most is to remove the influence of big money from politics,” Greens spokesman Andrew Bartlett said.
“Government decisions should be totally removed from property developers, casino promoters, alcohol companies and other vested interests. NSW have capped donations at $5000 and banned donations from property developers. That’d be a good start in Queensland, too.”
Mr Wellington has also floated banning developer donations in Queensland, a proposal that received support from others in Parliament, including crossbencher Rob Pyne.
The government had provided a variety of excuses over its delay on holding its inquiry into political donations in Queensland. While it maintained it was “moving forward”, it was yet to announce terms of reference, or even who would hold it.
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