‘World-leading’ bill: Australia plans to ban political donations in elections

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas has revealed plans to prohibit political donations in state elections, aiming for significant electoral reforms. Announced on Wednesday night, the state’s electoral amendment bill will ban donations and gifts to political parties, MPs, and candidates. Instead, the state will fund election campaigns to support the promotion of political ideas.

Malinauskas stated that this bill could make South Australia a global leader in disconnecting money from political power. “We want money out of politics. We know this is not easy. These reforms may well face legal challenges,” he said. “But we are determined to deliver them, with this bill to be introduced in the parliament in the near future.”

Challenging other leaders, Malinauskas told media Australia that such reforms should be pursued by democracies everywhere. The Albanese government has promised to introduce spending and donation caps, as well as truth-in-advertising laws, following the 2022 federal election and a subsequent parliamentary inquiry.

Special Minister of State Don Farrell recently mentioned that an agreement with major parties and the crossbench is still pending, though an amendment bill is anticipated by mid-year. To support new parties and independent candidates, the South Australia bill will permit donations up to $2,700, with campaign spending capped at $100,000 per candidate, up to $500,000 in total.

If enacted, political parties will receive a one-time payment of $200,000 before August 2026, along with operational funding capped at $700,000 or $47,000 per MP. Membership fees will be limited to $100 annually. To prevent circumvention of these changes, penalties include fines up to $50,000 or 10 years’ imprisonment.

Acknowledging higher costs for South Australia’s electoral system, the guide indicates that stricter expenditure and party registration rules will minimize expenses. Meanwhile, the Albanese government faces pressure to implement electoral reforms before the next federal election. Lower house independents and various parties introduced a bill for fair elections in March, proposing truth-in-advertising laws, a ban on donations from harmful industries, and stricter gift definitions.

This bill also aimed to fulfill Labor’s election promises to lower the donation disclosure threshold to $1,000 and require real-time donation disclosures within five days. Farrell emphasized the importance of achieving a consensus to ensure lasting changes, while opposition leader Peter Dutton expressed tentative support for truth-in-advertising laws, suggesting a potential bipartisan agreement despite some dissent within the Coalition.

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