Welcome to the latest edition of Clark Matters, my monthly email newsletter to help keep you abreast of federal politics and what I’ve been up to.
Cleaning up Political Donations Bill
The recent Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) annual returns once again highlighted how fundamentally broken Australia’s political donations laws are. An absurd amount of money continues to be given to political parties, often by big corporate entities. Just in the 2021-22 financial year, the Coalition received $118 million in donations, while the Australian Labor Party received $124 million. Much of this was dark money, donations with no identifiable source, and that is because the current disclosure threshold for political donations of $15,200 is far too high. That’s why I re-introduced Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Cleaning up Political Donations) Bill.
To ensure better transparency, my Bill would lower the disclosure threshold to $1,000 and require aggregation, so that multiple donations received from the same source be disclosed if the sum of all donations meets this threshold. Secondly, the Bill would introduce real-time reporting of donations to the AEC and also expand the definition of a gift.
The Bill would also implement a cap of $50,000 on the total amount any one donor can donate during an electoral cycle, as well as introduce an expenditure cap to limit the amount that can be spent on election campaigns by candidates and parties. Finally, the Bill would prohibit donations from sectors whose businesses cause direct harm to Australians, including fossil fuel entities, gambling companies, liquor companies and the tobacco industry.
Finally some humanity for refugees
The announcement by the Federal Government to allow an estimated 19,000 refugees to apply for permanent residency is long overdue. It is a more compassionate approach and will provide some relief to thousands of refugees who have been cruelly prevented from being able to reunite with families, access stable work and education or travel abroad.
However, this is only a start. There are about 12,000 people who are still languishing on temporary visas. Immigration Minister Andrew Giles is right in saying that “it makes no sense – economically or socially – to keep them in limbo”, so I will continue to lobby the Government so all refugees can rebuild their lives in Australia.
Effective poker machine reform within sight
I applaud the New South Wales Cabinet’s decision to support Premier Perrottet’s gambling reforms, which includes mandating cashless gambling pre-commitment cards on poker machines. The proposal would see pubs and clubs given five years to introduce the cashless system and for no-interest loans to be provided to venues to assist with implementing the technology. This includes one-off $50,000 grants for venues to make up for losses in revenue.
This is the most significant gambling reform anywhere in Australia since poker machines were introduced, following in the footsteps of the Tasmanian Government’s announcement to introduce a cashless gambling card with pre-determined limits by the end of 2024. It will go a long way to stamp out money laundering by tracking suspicious money flows, and will reduce gambling addiction by letting people set limits and self-exclude.
The proposal is consistent with the NSW Crime Commission’s report into money laundering which recommended mandatory cashless gambling on poker machines.