Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall seconds the Fair and Transparent Elections Bill 2024

25 March 2024


I second the bill, the (Fair and Transparent Elections) Bill. Over the last couple of elections there has been a major shift. Australian communities are asking more from their politicians to have greater integrity and accountability. They are not interested in the business-as-usual duopoly of the two major parties. They are also incredibly disillusioned with the state of transparency and accountability around elections. So, it is well past time we fix this and introduce legislation to ensure greater integrity, transparency and accountability when electing our politicians, but also ensuring a competitive field and more choice. Democracies thrive through the debate of ideas and having a variety of candidates articulating those ideas. This ensures communities have more choice when it comes to electing those who represent them. A system that entrenches the status quo controlled by two major parties limits participation in our democratic process. At the last federal election, the combined major-party vote was at its lowest on record and the minor party and independent vote was at its highest at 31.7%. That is a straight third of Australians already voting outside the major parties.

Then we have the question of funding. We have two systems of disclosures where community independents have to disclose at a vastly different time to major parties and we also know there is a huge amount of dark money. The origin of at least $57 million in political donations to major parties in 2022 to 2023 is unknown. This amounts to one-quarter of major party funding coming from dark money. Don't see that on the front page of the newspapers. Voters want transparency on donations. They want choice. So this (Fair and Transparent Elections) Bill is urgently needed to give voters that transparency and choice. It will improve accountability. It will protect voters from outright lies. It will reduce financial influence and it will level the playing field and limit excessive donations.

Now, we have this crazy double standard where we are protecting consumer rights from misleading and deceptive advertising but not political rights and so I am very pleased that the elements of my voter protections bill are included to ban misleading and deceptive advertising, political advertising. We know from polling from the Australian Institute last October that some 87 per cent of Australians agree that truth in political advertising laws should be in place in time for the next federal election so here is the opportunity for the government. It is already two years into this term. It is not enough to say that it is part of your policy position to want greater integrity and transparency in elections. Now is your chance to act. This bill sends a blueprint to the parliament, to the Australian people, of the kind of election reform we can do. There are the numbers to get this done now before the next election.