Expert panel to drive donations reform

Published 27th May, 2014

NSW Premier Mike Baird today announced an independent expert panel led by respected businesswoman and senior public servant Kerry Schott would investigate and recommend to government further reforms to NSW election funding laws.

The three-member panel will also include former Labor Deputy Premier John Watkins and former Liberal Shadow Attorney General Andrew Tink.

“I am determined to restore the public’s trust in NSW politics - the NSW Government will take whatever steps are necessary to increase transparency and accountability,” Mr Baird said.

“Kerry Schott, John Watkins and Andrew Tink are all people of the highest-calibre and are widely-respected across the community.

“I’ve instructed the panel to consider the best way to remove any corrosive influence of donations in NSW politics.

“Donations reform is a key step in my commitment to clean up politics in NSW.”

Mr Baird said the Panel would report back to him by 31 December 2014 on options for long term reform of political donations, including:

  • Whether full public funding of State election campaigns is feasible and in the public interest and what measures are needed to ensure integrity of such a system;
  • If full public funding is not to be provided, what other models are recommended;
  • What is the appropriate level to cap the expenditure on State election campaigns and how it should be determined;
  • Whether penalties for breaching donations laws are sufficient; and
  • What controls should apply to making donations and the appropriate frequency and timing of disclosure obligations.

“This will be a thorough process to ensure we put in place a system that benefits this State for the long term and does not run into any legal or constitutional barriers,” Mr Baird said.

“We need to change the culture of hidden influence and misplaced expectations of access that appear to follow even modest political donations in this State.

“The government has heard the message from the recent events at ICAC loud and clear - the current donations system in NSW is broken and the public has had enough.

“While comprehensive reform of political donations is a process that will extend beyond next March, we’ll also be making further announcements on more immediate measures that can be implemented for the lead-up to the next election.”

The NSW Government will also today introduce legislation to address a gap in election funding regulation that has arisen following last year’s High Court decision, which overturned the NSW Government’s ban on corporate donations.

The legislation ensures corporate donations are again regulated in the same way as all other political donations.

The amendments will apply retrospectively from the date of the High Court decision so corporate donations made between the date of the decision and the passing of the Bill will be required to be disclosed in the usual way.

Published 27th May, 2014