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Coalition's changes to finance laws could be a 'dreadful step backwards'

Posted by On 8:09 PM

Coalition's changes to finance laws could be a 'dreadful step backwards'

The Transparency Project Australian politics Coalition's changes to finance laws could be a 'dreadful step backwards'

Former NSW anti-corruption commissioner warns against any moves to override state bans on developer donations

Australian money
The former NSW anti-corruption commissioner David Ipp says the existing integrity bodies are simply not powerful enough to root out corruption. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

The former New South Wales anti-corruption commissioner David Ipp has warned that any move to override state bans on property developer donations would be a “dreadful step backwards”.

Last week, Guardian Australia revealed that Coalition changes to federal campaign finance laws could effectively grant political donors immunity from state and territory donation restrictions.

Academics believe the changes, if passed through federal parliament, would exempt a wide range of donors from state laws, including bans on developer donations, stricter donation caps and tougher disclosure requirements. Donors would only need to show there is a potential connection to federal election spending to gain the immunity.

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David Ipp says property developer donations caused huge problems in NSW. Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP

Ipp, a former independent commission against corruption commissioner who investigated Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald, warned against any weakening of state donation laws.

“If that’s what it’s doing, it’s really a dreadful step backwards,” Ipp told Guardian Australia.

He said property developer donations had caused huge problems in NSW and said the state’s current laws, while flawed, were a brave effort to root out corruption.

“What is actually the point of undoing it? One actually asks, why do you want to do this?” he said. “Why is it in the benefit of the country to actually make it easier for lobbyists to pay large sums of money so that decisions are made in their favour? Shouldn’t the decisions be made in accordance with what the politicians genuinely believe the merits are? It’s such an obvious thing.”

Last week, Ipp and a group of other distinguished senior ex-judges delivered a blueprint for a national integrity commissio n. Such a commission would have strong investigative powers â€" including the power to hold public hearings and coerce witnesses â€" and a wide-ranging remit. It would also be subject to strong bipartisan parliamentary oversight to prevent it from overreaching.

Federal Icac: former judges reveal plan to 'ferret out corruption' Read more

Labor has already committed to setting up a federal integrity commission if elected but the federal government earlier this year expressed a preference to instead combine and bolster parts of the various integrity bodies that currently exist.

The attorney general, Christian Porter, said there was no “persuasive evidence” that the current anti-corruption framework was insufficient.

But Ipp said the existing integrity bodies were simply not powerful enough to root out corruption.

“They don’t have the powers and it’s inappropriate because each one is concerned with a speciality,” he said. “Each one has limited resources, limited staff and limited experience outside of what they actually do.”

Ipp said he had “personally no confidence” that the government â€" yet to formally rule out a federal Icac â€" was in favour of an integrity commission.

“I have personally no confidence from what [Porter] has said that he is in favour of an integrity commission. I think that he would rather leave the question open then just refuse it now.”

• This reporting is supported by the Susan McKinnon Foundation through the Guardian Civic Journalism Trust

  • Australian politics
  • The Transparency Project
  • New South Wales politics
  • Independent Commission Against Corruption
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Source: Google Australia | Netizen 24 Australia

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