12 September, 2012
Proposed changes to local electoral law
Local Government Minister David Carter has announced proposed changes to the donation provisions of the Local Electoral Act.
Mr Carter says the proposed amendments reflect growing public concern about transparency and accountability in relation to candidate donations, and in particular anonymous donations.
“The amendments will limit the size of anonymous donations a candidate can keep to $1500, revise the definition of “anonymous”, increase disclosure, reporting and recording obligations and introduce penalties for non-compliance.
“They will bring the Act more into line with the Electoral Act which governs the conduct of parliamentary elections and, in doing so, will help build trust in the local electoral system.”
Mr Carter says the amendments would be combined with the Local Electoral Amendment Bill currently before Parliament.
“This Bill increases flexibility for city and district councils to set ward boundaries in a way that better reflects communities and geographic features. The proposals will further strengthen the integrity and efficiency of the local electoral system.”
A new Local Electoral Amendment Bill will be introduced early next month in order to enact the changes by May 2013.
“This legislation needs to be passed in good time for those arranging and participating in the local authority elections in October next year,” Mr Carter says.
What are the proposed changes?
- Limiting to $1500 the size of an anonymous donation a candidate can retain
- Requiring any candidate receiving an anonymous donation of more than $1500 to pay any excess to the electoral officer
- Requiring the electoral officer to pay the amount over $1500 to the local authority that is administering the election
- Expanding the existing definition of “anonymous” to include situations where the candidate could not ‘reasonably know’ the identity of the donor
- Raising the amount of a donation that the candidate must report in their electoral return from $1000 to $1500
- Requiring a third party who receives a donation on behalf of a candidate to disclose the identity of the donor (if known) to the candidate
- Requiring a person administering the affairs of a candidate who receives an anonymous donation of more than $1500 on behalf of the candidate to disclose the identity of the donor (if known) to the candidate
- New requirements to improve the current disclosure and reporting obligations
- New provisions relating to penalties for non-compliance with the new requirements.
Will this bring the Local Electoral Act into line with the Electoral Act?
It will bring the two Acts closer into line. However, the amendments do not replicate all the donation provisions in the Electoral Act because some of those provisions will not easily or appropriately fit into the context of local elections.