Election Donation Disclosure As Clear As 'Mud'

1 February 2017
Call to overhaul laws for greater transparency and more timely disclosures

 Senator Nick Xenophon says the donations disclosures released today by the AEC were “as clear as mud” and called for greater transparency in disclosures, including the sources of third-party donations, and more immediacy when donations are disclosed.

Currently, donations over the threshold of $13,200 ($13,000 in 2015-16) made in one financial year are only released publicly on 1 February after the financial year in which they were made. However, for last year’s election, a donation made on 1 July 2016 – the eve of the election – will only be revealed on 1 February 2018 – 19 months after the donation was made.

Also, donations from organisations or individuals to unions and foundations do not necessarily disclose whether they actually received a donation for the purpose of it being funnelled to the political party involved. And the situation is even less transparent with foundations and trusts that have close links to political parties.

“Our current donation laws are as clear as mud. There ought to be monthly disclosures made of donations above the threshold, and during an election period, disclosures should be made within 24 hours. Third-party donations also need to be much more transparent – otherwise, the whole purpose of donation disclosure laws will continue to be completely undermined,” said Nick.

Senator Xenophon also called for reform of election donation laws to require political parties – not just individual candidates – to provide election returns after each election campaign.

“Under current disclosure laws, which exempt political parties from providing election returns, there is a big gap that leads to less transparency, and creates an anomaly.”

Senator Xenophon queried how much money the ALP spent on a “disgustingly false and misleading penalty rates ad campaign" against him and fellow candidates.

In particular, Senator Xenophon queried how much money was spent on the saturation TV campaign, and what the source of that funding was. It is believed several hundred thousand dollars were spent on the campaign targeting the Nick Xenophon Team.

The Nick Xenophon Team did promptly disclose donations during the election campaign – disclosing a $100,000 donation from Golden Lineage Pty Ltd, a company associated with NXT supporter Ian Melrose. However, $40,000 of that was refunded to the company shortly after it was received, so the total donation was in fact $60,000.

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