Queensland Passes Law to Cap Political Donations

By AAP
June 18, 2020 Updated: June 18, 2020

Legislation to place a cap on political donations and election campaign spending has passed in Queensland parliament, but do not take effect until 2022.

The legislation, which passed in state parliament late on Thursday, will limit the amount a person or body can give to a political candidate or party.

The government says it will make elections an even playing field once the laws take effect in 2022.

The delay has at least one academic scratching his head.

University of Queensland political science lecturer Glenn Kefford said while the policy was aimed at raising transparency and reforming political donation laws, the delay didn’t make sense. 

“The $64,000 question is why do this now and why implement it after the election?” he told AAP.  “I do not have the answer.”

Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said it’s due to economic implications stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said deferring the donation limits and change to public financing of parties will allow the state government to prioritise economic recovery from the health crisis.

The bill is meant to prevent people or bodies from influencing anyone involved in a state election campaign including political parties, MPs, candidates or other individuals.

It will allow parties and candidates to communicate with voters without drowning out their rivals, and curb candidate donations to $6000 and $4000 for parties over a four-year term of government.

Parties and candidates can all but forget about bombarding polling booths with signage as they will be limited to two signs up to a specified size within 100 metres from the entry point.

Caps on donations and spending were removed by the Liberal National Party under Campbell Newman.

The legislation also includes consequences for ministers who fail to disclose a conflict of interest to cabinet or fail to maintain their register of interests where their intent is proven.

These acts could land a minister in prison for up to two years and force them from office.

The legislative changes were flagged following the Jackie Trad integrity scandal over the purchase of a house.

Trad divulged more details about her husband Damien’s Woolloongabba investment property during debate over the bill on Thursday.

She said he had shed some of his business interests and invested the money into the $695,000 for the three-bedroom, one-bathroom house.

He told Trad after he had bought it.

Trad said she sought advice from Neil Laurie, the Clerk of the Parliament, and verbally advised him she would need to update her register to include the purchase before the deadline.

She then provided additional information but did not sign necessary paperwork until six weeks later, once it had passed.

“At no stage did I hide or omit the purchase of this house, as confirmed by the Clerk in his evidence before the economics and governance estimates committee hearing on July 23 last year,” Trad told parliament. 

The saga over her failure to declare the property on time threw the government into chaos and was scoped out by the Crime and Corruption Commission. 

By Sonia Kohlbacher and Aaron Bunch