Political Disclosure Regulation in Australia: Lackadaisical Law
Election Law Journal, 6 1: 72-88, 2007
Posted: 20 Jun 2015
Date Written: 2007
Political finance law in Australia consists of just two pillars of regulation. There is the carrot of public funding; and there is the obligation - it is hardly a stick - of disclosure. Both pillars offer some modest civilizing benefits to the jungle of unfettered electoral competition and money politics. Disclosure lets a little sunshine in, in the hope of better informing electoral choices and deterring some undue influence. Public funding levels the playing field a little, given that the major parties attract the major donations. ("Major parties" here refers to the duopolistic parties of government, i.e., the ALP or Australian Labor Party, and the conservative coalition of Liberal and National Parties. Their dominance is virtually guaranteed by a majoritarian electoral system.) Public funding also may relieve some of the desperation that otherwise leads politicians and fund-raisers to let their thirst for finance trump their ethical sense.
In this article I will argue that disclosure law in Australia drifts lackadaisically, in a laissez-faire culture. It is laissez-faire in two regards. First, the legal framework allows for unbridled campaign expenditure and donations unlimited in source or size, while the courts defer to parliament in electoral law matters. Second, there is a cultural lack - among political actors, those responsible for enforcement, the media, and the electorate at large - that combines to ensure disclosure is neither transparent nor a first order issue.
JEL Classification: k00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation