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July 27, 2021

Experts reject political donations ban

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A panel has rejected banning political donations despite ongoing scandals.
A panel has rejected banning political donations despite ongoing scandals.

A major review into NSW donation rules has “strongly” rejected the introduction of full public funding of election campaigns in NSW.

The expert panel, led by respected public servant Dr Kerry Schott, said a total ban on political donations would not be feasible, constitutional or in the public interest.

It also called for Premier Mike Baird’s decision to massively increase public funding of the 2015 election be reversed in future elections.

‘Whatever funding model is adopted, the panel strongly believes that it should not provide for `full’ public funding,’ the report said.

Both Mr Baird and former opposition leader John Robertson are in favour of introducing a public funding model.

The panel says current donation rules must be urgently overhauled to remove potential loopholes.

‘While NSW has the strictest election funding laws in Australia, they have been accompanied by poor compliance and soft enforcement,’ it said.

The panel, which was formed by Mr Baird earlier in the year amid the state’s ICAC-donation scandal, remained “sceptical” that some MPs and members of political parties were fully complying with election funding laws.

But it found “no real evidence” to support the idea that banning donations altogether would restore the public’s trust in the political system.

It said modest political donations were an important way for people to express their voice.

It added that a total ban on political donations would be very costly and would likely be struck down in the High Court.

The expert panel estimates that under Mr Baird’s recent decision to increase public funding of the March election, the cost to taxpayers would be increased from $21.5 million to $33 million.

The report recommends that this be a one-off measure and that the level of election campaign funding be reduced after the 2015 poll to the levels that were in place in the 2011 election.

Mr Baird said the government would consider the report’s 50 recommendations and respond before the 2015 election.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption has this year heard allegations of alleged widespread rorting of donation laws by Liberal MPs.

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