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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

The next federal election could be conducted under dramatically reformed electoral laws, with caps on spending and donations, and a much lower disclosure threshold for the disclosure of donations.

The changes, being worked up by Special Minister Don Farrell, would also trim the wings of third parties, such as Simon Holmes à Court’s Climate 200.

Farrell tells The Conversation’s Politics Podcast he is not waiting for the final report of the parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, which in its interim report has recommended a set of reforms broadly in line with Labor policy. The report was tabled on Monday.

Farrell says waiting until the final report comes at the end of the year would make it harder to get legislation in place for the next election, due by May 2025. He will have negotiations over the coming months and wants as much bipartisanship as possible, despite the Coalition opposing key recommendations of the majority report.

The government’s reform package would drastically reduce the threshold for donation disclosure, from the current $15,200 to $1000, and provide for disclosure in “real time”.

On spending caps, Farrell says: “The Australian electoral system shouldn’t be just open to people with lots of money”, citing Clive Palmer’s huge spend of $117 million at the last election.

He’s hoping for “broad consensus” across parties “that we’ve got to do something to firstly restrict the amount of money that individuals can spend, but also ensure that combination of transparency so that ordinary people can run campaigns”.

“The expenditure by wealthy people to essentially buy election results is now completely out of control and we’ve got to do something about it”.

Farrell says caps should apply to third parties because “it’s got to be a level playing field”. There has to be as “balance” – increasing transparency, restricting the ability of rich people to by elections, and improving access to democracy.

“My job in the next six months before the final report [from the committee] will be to try and find that balance.”

Ambitiously, Farrell says: “I’d like to see a consensus outcome before the end of the year, and that implemented either this year or early next year so that the Australian Electoral Commission has got plenty of time to implement whatever we agree upon.”

He said a provision for truth in advertising, also recommended by the committee, would be in the government’s package “if we can get consensus on it in the lead up to the next election”.

Farrell hopes the date for the Voice referendum – which Anthony Albanese has said will be in the last quarter of the year – is sooner rather than later, because of the weather in the north in the latter months of the year. The speculation is that the vote will be in October.

“Look, it’s a challenge in every election getting into Indigenous communities and of course the later in the year that you go, then the more difficult it can be with storms and so forth [in the north of Australia] and of course that’s where large numbers of Indigenous Australians live.”

“I’m pleased to report that since this government came to office, we’ve lifted Indigenous enrolment from roughly 81% that it was at the time of the last election up to 84½%, and we’re expecting to get some more figures next month, which I’m confident will show an even greater participation. (At the next federal election more than 98% of the eligible general population will be on the roll.)

Farrell has made it easier for Indigenous people to enrol by allowing a Medicare card to be used as identification. “It’s a challenge but I think we have to devote more resources to getting more Indigenous Australians on the roll and I think you’ll find more Indigenous Australians will vote on this issue in the referendum.”

This week Farrell warned that the government’s legislation for its $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, deferred by the Greens and the Coalition until mid October, could be on the way to being double dissolution legislation.

He tells the podcast: “Look, I’m not advocating a double dissolution. What I am advocating is for the Greens political party to come to their senses.”

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan ne travaille pas, ne conseille pas, ne possède pas de parts, ne reçoit pas de fonds d’une organisation qui pourrait tirer profit de cet article, et n’a déclaré aucune autre affiliation que son organisme de recherche.

ref. Politics with Michelle Grattan: Special Minister of State Don Farrell wants donation and spending caps for next election –