Time to overhaul donations

REFORM: Parkes MP Mark Coulton wants entities with links to foreign governments to be banned from donating to Australia's political parties and candidates.

REFORM: Parkes MP Mark Coulton wants entities with links to foreign governments to be banned from donating to Australia's political parties and candidates.

Political lobby groups should be subjected to the same rules and regulations as political parties when it comes to declaring donations, Parkes MP Mark Coulton said.

He also believed foreign donors with links to foreign governments should be banned.

The comments follow two weeks of tumultuous debate in Federal Parliament after a joint Fairfax Media/ Four Corners investigation revealed the Coalition and Labor parties had accepted donations from two billionare property developers – Huang Xiangmo and Chau Chak Wing – despite having been briefed by ASIO on the men’s possible links to the Chinese Communist Party.

Debate has since turned to third party groups like Get Up! and trade unions, and whether they should be allowed to exert the influence they do over Australian politics.

Mr Coulton said it was legitimate for Australian citizens to financially support a candidate or party, but greater scrutiny was needed when it came to third party organisations.

Senator Sam Dastyari. Photo: ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

Senator Sam Dastyari. Photo: ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

“Trade union, anyone really – they could also be organisations on the conservative side of politics – anyone that’s running advertisements or actively campaigning in the political process needs to be under the same scrutiny,” he said.

“At the moment Get Up! are acting with complete impunity across many electorates in Australia, lobbying and campaigning and trying to influence the political process.

“In the party system now, every cent that’s donated to my campaign is documented and easily found and I think that if organisations like Get Up! want to be involved in the political system, they need to be under the same scrutiny as the parties … having to declare where their finances are coming from.”

Individual MPs have also come under fire, with Labor senator Sam Dastyari facing criticism over revelations he repeatedly assisted Mr Huang in his attempt to gain Australian citizenship.

Mr Coulton said he had no problem with MPs assisting people with gaining Australian citizenship – something his office does “on a regular basis”.

“But large donations from … foreign entities, particularly ones connected to foreign governments, that’s a huge concern for me and if that’s happening it needs to be stopped.”

Mr Coulton believed there was a mood for change within the Australian parliament, and hoped reforms could be implemented quickly.

But he said individual Members of Parliament were ultimately responsible for any donations they were offered.

“And if they’re not completely sure as to the origin of that money or the motivation behind it, certainly they shouldn’t accept it.”