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Labor pledges to ban political donations to SA parties

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All political donations from individuals, businesses and unions should be banned, Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas has declared, pledging to move towards abolishing the practice for state elections if he wins government in March.

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In a speech delivered on Monday night to the Dunstan Foundation, the Labor leader said that if elected he would move towards the abolition of campaign donations and fundraising, long overseen for the ALP by SA Progressive Business, which would be disbanded.

It’s the first move of its sort in SA since former Liberal leader Isobel Redmond sought to crack down on big donations to political parties – a push that ultimately failed to materialise.

Malinauskas’s move would aim to go further – banning donations entirely – but he stopped short of guaranteeing that the reform could be achieved, instead noting that “implementing such a change would present complex legal and policy challenges”.

Instead, he pledged to commission the Attorney-General’s Department “to undertake a detailed analysis of the issues and provide policy advice”, with the Solicitor-General to “provide legal advice on potential legal challenges”.

He said a Labor Government would seek Liberal and minor party support “for such a significant, long-term reform”, which he insists would not see taxpayers slugged more for public campaign funding.

He suggested “one model would see political parties which receive public funding – as currently occurs – required to adhere to a ban on donations, similar to the existing campaign spending caps that apply”.

But he noted there would be complicated jurisdictional issues with state-based parties still entitled to receive funding for federal campaigns and “political party administration”.

He said there were also questions about “what this means for the ability of individuals to self-fund their own campaign [and] how changes to donation laws operate in relation to new or smaller parties and independents”.

“The people have every confidence in the basic concept of giving every person an equal say and letting the majority decide,” Malinauskas’s speech said.

“Where they lack confidence more and more every year is in the idea that the public institutions where we all serve really do give every person an equal say… quite frankly, I can’t blame them.”

He said “if we can do one thing to improve public confidence in our public institutions it is this – we should ban all donations for elections”.

“No more private money for political parties campaigns,” he said.

“Not business money. Not union money.”

While he did not put a time frame on a workable legislative solution, he said: “I want this state election to be the last state election where private money plays any role.”

Malinauskas is the former state secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees union, the power base of Labor’s Right faction in SA and a major financial backer of the ALP.

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