New reforms to the Local Government Act will introduce tighter restrictions around donation returns and capping on the value of electoral campaign donations and gifts. Currently returns are submitted to the CEO, who after the deadline must submit a report to the Minister for Local Government highlighting any failures. The report then makes its way to the Inspectorate via Local Government Victoria.
Planned legislative reforms will expedite this process and see returns submitted directly to the Inspectorate. Notifications of donations for each candidate will then be made available within two business days on the Inspectorate website.
These reforms are expected to vastly improve the immediacy and transparency of campaign funding disclosures, while also allowing the Inspectorate to more swiftly check the veracity of returns during the election period. Importantly, they will provide access to real-time information about outstanding returns, which will assist in actively promoting submission by the 40 day deadline and hopefully reduce resource-intensive compliance action.
The Inspectorate recently completed a lengthy investigation into candidates in the 2016 general elections, after media coverage of successful prosecutions led to the Inspectorate receiving information about alleged non-disclosures.
David Nunns, a candidate in the 2016 Moreland Council elections, received a six month good behaviour bond for non-disclosure of campaign funding at Broadmeadows Magistrates Court on Wednesday 15 May. Following a lengthy investigation into campaign funding anomalies, the Local Government Inspectorate alleged that Nunns failed to declare, on his campaign donation return, a $3000 gift from the Municipal Employees Union Fund, which is associated with his employer, the Australian Services Union (ASU).
Nunns did not receive a conviction and was placed on a six month good behaviour bond and ordered to pay $1500 towards prosecution legal costs. Under the current legislation, all Victorian council candidates are required to submit returns listing donations towards their campaigns above the $500 threshold within 40 days of a general election.