Question: Political Donations
Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — My question is to the Premier. I refer to the June 2016 Ombudsman's Report on Recommendations, which states the following Ombudsman's recommendation:
That the Victorian government consider …
a. whether there should be restrictions on donations to candidates and political parties by property developers;
b. whether details of all donations to a candidate or political party should be required to be published on a publicly available register within 30 days of the relevant election is under consideration. So I ask: has the government considered those recommendations, and if so, what is its response?
Mr ANDREWS (Premier) — I thank the honourable member for Prahran for his question. It has long been my view that a nationally consistent approach to political donations is the best way to get transparency and certainty into our political process and to, if you like, defend our democratic system from undue influence. That is how you get probity, that is how you get integrity. That is why both as a minister of the Crown and a member of this place, and indeed before entering this place as a registered officer of Australia’s oldest political party, the great Australian Labor Party, I was always very conscious of my duties and the obligations I had and have now. All donations should be disclosed in full accordance with the commonwealth law.
Now I note that there are some discussions going on in the normal public debate — some of those are occurring in Canberra — around ways in which we might improve the campaign finance laws, donation reform. All of us, I think, ought to be involved in that sort of discussion. All of us will have lots of different views. I believe that the current arrangements are adequate. That is not to say that they could not be improved at some point in the future. The Ombudsman has directed us to a number of different issues. There will be a response from the government in due course. I do not have that report in front of me. But I would just say: it is important to be consistent in these matters, and throughout my public life and before then I have always sought to do that. There are others who would perhaps hold — well, hold others to standards they might struggle to meet themselves — —
Honourable members interjecting.
The SPEAKER — Order!
Mr ANDREWS — These matters should not be issues of partisan debate and rancour. We ought to be able to ——
Ms Sandell interjected.
Mr ANDREWS — Well, the member for Melbourne interjects. She may not know what I am referring to. There are certain online gambling tycoons donating very large amounts of money and certain dotcom millionaires making the very biggest donation in Australian political history. There are two examples of saying one thing and perhaps doing another. But look — —
Honourable members interjecting.
The SPEAKER — Order! Mr ANDREWS — I come back to the key point here that we ought not argue about these matters. Instead, in a spirit of bipartisanship, and with no doubt commentary from the Greens, we might be able to improve these arrangements for the future. But they ought to be part of a nationally consistent arrangement. Otherwise you might have all manner of very perverse, unintended consequences.
Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I refer to another report, and it is the Electoral Matters Committee 2009 Inquiry into political donations and disclosure. It recommended, as the Premier suggested:
The Victorian and commonwealth governments consider how best to harmonise political finance laws to ensure a uniform and consistent approach.
This was seven years and two elections ago, and our political donations system remains weak and inadequate and lacks transparency. Is it not time that you showed leadership on this issue and committed to reforming Victoria's political donation laws rather than waiting for the federal government or other states to act?
Mr ANDREWS (Premier) — I do thank the member for Prahran for his supplementary question. Seeing as we are quoting from reports, and all honourable members know how fond I am of quoting from the Herald Sun, let me just quote from that newspaper: Greens party took $500 000 from high-roller gambler. That is what it says. Of course it is accurate; I would not quote it if it was not. Again, a nationally consistent approach — let us just pause on that word ‘consistent’. A consistent approach — that is to say, have a position, stick to it, fight for it and then deliver on it. That would be something that everyone on this side of the house knows one or two things about — being consistent and delivering things. I think there is a bit of a learning curve for the Greens on that one.