Management of campaign donation returns
The Local Government Bill 2019 (Bill) included a proposal to increase the responsibilities of the Chief Municipal Inspector in relation to campaign donation returns. The proposal would have seen the Chief Municipal Officer publish a summary of the gifts recorded in an election donation report within two days of it being lodged. The summary would have included the name of the candidate, name of the donor and the value and nature of the gift.
The immediacy of this proposal would have heightened transparency in local government and the election process. It also received strong support from the local government sector. However, the proposal set out in section 338 of the Bill was not passed by the Victorian Parliament and did not become law.
It is our belief that language consistent with section 338 should be included in the Act to increase the transparency and integrity of political donations in local government elections and this will increase public trust in the process.
Part 8 of the Act includes a number of offences relating to the conduct of elections. These offences are relatively minor and most carry relatively low financial penalties.
Our experience under the equivalent provisions in the 1989 Act indicates that the criminal justice system, namely the cost and delay in conducting prosecutions in the court system, is disproportionate to the nature and seriousness of the offences.
We also consider that the criminal justice system does not provide an adequate deterrent for candidates who breach their statutory obligations under Part 8 of the Act and that the Chief Municipal Officer should be able to issue infringement notices to persons believed to have committed these offences.
We have previously presented these proposed amendments to the Department of Justice and Community Safety.
Reviewed 13 December 2021