Being made ‘accountable’ under political expenditure laws

This morning the major papers have their annual round-up of how much was donated to political parties and who the major donors were in 2008-09.

In my particular concern of political expenditure laws, as in previous years the papers were struggling to find any news other than how much money the unions spent, and this year so far as I can see only the SMH even bothered with that.

Of the $6.5 million in political expenditure declared in 2008-09 (down dramatically from the 2007-08 election year spending of $50.6 million) 94.6% was spent by unions, 3.6% by GetUp!, 1.5% by environmental groups, and the remaining $11,170 by the Aged Care Association (SA).

As I argued in my CIS paper on political expenditure laws, it is not clear what this aspect of the disclosure system is intended to achieve. The donations provisions are intended to uncover influence on political parties that would otherwise be secret. But with the exception of money spent on opinion polls, the political expenditure laws cover spending that is by legal definition already public, to do with the public expression of political views.

The main purpose of these laws was in my view an attempt by the Coalition to make donors to left-wing groups ‘accountable’. Though the ostensible purpose of donations disclosure is to reduce the chance of improper treatment of political donors, their actual function is to facilitate it.

This year the only individual I could find named in donor disclosure statements was ‘Mr/Ms Jo Skrynski’, who I presume is Joseph Skrzynski. He gave $137,500 to GetUp!

I think we can no assume that in the unlikely event the Coalition is in power any time soon they will not re-appoint Mr Skrzynski as Chair of SBS.

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