Political Disclosure Regulation in Australia: Lackadaisical Law

Election Law Journal, 6 1: 72-88, 2007

Posted: 20 Jun 2015

See all articles by Graeme D. Orr

Graeme D. Orr

The University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law

Date Written: 2007

Abstract

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

Orr, Graeme, Political Disclosure Regulation in Australia: Lackadaisical Law (2007). Election Law Journal, 6 1: 72-88, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2620458

Graeme Orr (Contact Author)

The University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law ( email )

The University of Queensland
St Lucia
4072 Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

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