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Australia ‘Too little too late': Government's political donations bill criticised from within

00:06  22 june  2021
00:06  22 june  2021 Source:   smh.com.au

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NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin © AAP NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin

The NSW government is being criticised from within its own ranks about a bill to help monitor suspicious donations to council candidates as being too little too late, leaving the Liberal Party in disarray over the upcoming local government elections.

The Liberals' state directorate has strengthened its ability to quickly decide the suitability of council nominees but a "chaotic" preselection process means approved candidates will have little time to campaign.

City of Sydney Liberal councillor Craig Chung has also announced he is not contesting the September elections in favour of other political opportunities, prompting questions from within the party about who will be put up to challenge longstanding lord mayor Clover Moore.

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NSW Special Minister of State Don Harwin introduced a bill into the upper house this month that enables political party representatives to assume responsibility for local candidates' donation disclosures.

"This bill is an important integrity measure that gives political parties the authority to ensure their candidates' campaigns are in full compliance with electoral law," Mr Harwin said, elaborating that the proposal recognised candidates weren't experts in disclosing political donations.

"Political parties are often better placed to manage these requirements as they are familiar with their electoral obligations and are experienced in managing campaigns."

The bill follows unanswered calls from Liberal state director Chris Stone for a register of prohibited donors to be established, telling a parliamentary inquiry it was "difficult and problematic" for the party to identify prohibited donors.

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Strathfield Council Liberal mayor Antoine Doueihi, who has interests in property development, has given thousands of dollars to the party despite a ban on developers making political donations.

A Liberal party source who is familiar with the oversight of donations said it was questionable how much power the proposed legislation would allow agents of parties to peer into local candidates' war chests, while a senior member of the Berejiklian government said with 75 days until council elections, the government was playing catch-up.

"It sounds like it's too little too late and something that should've been done a year or two ago," the government figure, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of a prohibition on speaking of internal party matters, said.

Labor spokesman, John Graham MLC, said while his party was prepared to support any integrity measures, "this is very late in the cycle to be introducing them."

Can an association make a donation?

 Can an association make a donation? © Jose Luis Pelaz Inc - Getty Images Can an association make a donation? Is the opposite situation possible? Can an association make a donation to an individual, a company or another association? What steps should we follow? The creation of an association results in the search for funding and the call for donations to achieve the objectives of the association. The realization of donations to an association is therefore a well known and extremely interesting process.

Greens MLC David Shoebridge said the Liberal Party appeared "anxious to take accounting responsibilities for council elections away from their local campaigns."

"With their close ties to local developers, many of these campaigns will be under very close scrutiny once the election is over," Mr Shoebridge said.

While Labor has proposed banning property developers and real estate agents from councils, the policy debate remains an internal quandary for Liberals.

Many Liberal members have complained the delayed preselections - a process determined by the executive - will leave candidates scrambling to effectively campaign to their local communities, with the senior government figure calling the saga "chaotic and disorganised".

While there are also discussions within the party to not endorse candidates running for a number of councils, including Parramatta, whose mayor is Liberal.

A circular to party nominees this month said Mr Stone and NSW president Philip Ruddock - as opposed to a committee of four - would determine whether a nominee was fit and proper to be selected for endorsement.

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