The government’s proposal to ban foreign donations and limit political contributions from charities is a flawed and rash proposal that would undermine democracy. It purports to ‘protect’ the public from unsubstantiated threats to democracy from foreign donations and unregulated contributions to public debate. It is not clear that either of these threats are significant risks to the health of Australian democracy. At a minimum, little evidence has been provided to support these assertions.
However, even if such evidence was presented, the government’s proposed solution itself is a significant threat to the health of Australian democracy because it unduly burdens free speech and the right to freedom of political communication. It will lead to calls for greater public funding, and may hinder participation in public policy by organisations that rely on private funding instead of the taxpayer.
The better solution is to open debate up to as many ideas as possible so the competition of those ideas can sort out the best policies and thereby strengthen democracy. The government should abandon this Bill and consider repealing recent changes to the Electoral Act as well as removing restrictions that limit private funding.