Report

The chilling effect of political expenditure laws

31 Mar 2008
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New political expenditure disclosure rules, aimed at organisations that run no candidates in elections but may nevertheless influence public opinion, could have a 'chilling effect' on political expression.New political expenditure disclosure rules, aimed at organisations that run no candidates in elections but may nevertheless influence public opinion, could have a 'chilling effect' on political expression, argues Policy editor Andrew Norton.

The main danger posed by this legislation, says Norton, is not the extra paperwork, annoying and wasteful as it may be, but the potential consequences for political debate. Organisations that do not have party politics as a major purpose, but engage occasionally with politicians or politically-charged issues, may decide that political speech is not worth the effort of having to decide which activities fall within the law and then calculating and reporting the associated expenditure.

Of the forty-nine political organisations that submitted returns to the AEC for 2006–07, forty-eight are left-wing. Norton argues that far from improving the quality of Australian democracy, disclosure provisions have represented the former Howard government's bureaucratic harassment of its opponents.

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2008
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