Electoral Legislation 2021 Bills

26 August 2021

Here we are again with major reform being rushed through the parliament without proper scrutiny or debate and, yet again, Labor is totally complicit. This is such a predictable and shameless exercise of retaining power by the major parties. It is a reform with one simple purpose, and that purpose is to make it harder for the Australian people to elect one of their own to serve in this place rather than copping the product of some back-room factional deal. The electoral reform we really need in Australia is not restrictions on party names. It is not stricter membership rules. It is not even new rules to prevent multiple voting, which is truly a solution in search of a problem. What we need is transparency—absolute, real-time transparency—on donations.

Every Australian knows money buys access in this place; it buys influence. All big corporations and industry groups know this. I would rather we ban big donations entirely. But, if we can't ban them, we should at least make them public. We ought to know who is paying in real time and what they are getting in return. We ought to know who is buying $1,000 seats and $10,000 tables at fundraisers. We ought to know when these donors are getting face time with the minister or dinner with the Prime Minister, and we ought to know immediately. Real-time transparency and real-time honesty—that is the kind of reform we need in Australia. It's the kind of reform Australians want to see. It is the kind of reform that scares the major parties.

Major parties are afraid of transparency because they are afraid of what it will expose. Instead of giving us transparency, instead of giving us the reform Australians actually want, we get this piffle. These bills are a series of small tweaks, creating the illusion of reform and giving cover to a bigger change that will perpetuate the dominance of the major parties. Let's be clear about this: it is not for the benefit of democracy. If the Liberal and Labor parties were not just the parties of government but the parties of good government, they would not need to change the rules and give themselves a head start. In fact, they wouldn't have to worry about minor parties at all, as there would be little need for many. Voters look on and see the games, the stories of rorts and the cover-ups, and they are repulsed. They are repulsed and they want change, so many of them look for other options and other parties—someone who is actually worth voting for.

It's no coincidence that every crossbench senator supports greater transparency—every single crossbencher in this place and the other place. Every crossbench senator supports good governance. Every crossbench senator supports an end to rorts. That is not because we all have the same ideology or values—most of us are very different. It's because that is what the voters want. I'm sure the government know this and I'm sure the opposition know it, too. They know it, but they don't want to own it. They don't want to jeopardise their own sinecures, their own comfortable futures. They know the path to preselection is being a team player and not in any way rocking the boat. So they would rather change the rules and prevent the people from having their say than give the people what they want. It is shameful.

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