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Developers remain banned from political donations

NORTH Coast mayors have applauded the High Court for upholding a ban on property developers making political donations in NSW.

Former Newcastle mayor Jeff McCloy, who contributed to former Liberal MP Tim Owen's 2011 campaign, was among a group of developers arguing a ban on donations had limited political freedom.

The High Court unanimously rejected the theory this week.

The decision also maintains the caps of $2000 on donations to candidates and $5000 for political parties.

Lismore City Mayor Jenny Dowell believed even further restrictions should be considered.

"I don't think anyone gives a significant donation without expecting something in return," she said.

"It's about public perception.

"What would a reasonable person think if they knew someone had donated $500,000 to a political campaign?

"Personally, I support any rules that limit the ability of someone to use money to influence political decisions."

Cr Dowell said local elections could benefit from tighter rules around public funding, including limits on how much candidates could spend on their own campaigns.

"There could perhaps be a change to just online or postal voting as well," she said.

"That would restrict the ability of candidates to have posters and hand out voting material on election day.

"It is very much the case that the person with the most money has the biggest ability to influence the vote.

"I think the overall solution is to have election campaigns publicly funded, but I can't see that happening in the short to medium term."

Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson said donations from property developers had never been an issue in his electorate, at least at a local government level.

"I would say most country and regional councillors' campaigns are self-funded," he said.

"I have no problem with the original rules and support their continuation."

As for Auburn Deputy Mayor, developer and self-professed prime minister in waiting Salim Mehajer, both mayors were glad he was not part of their council teams.

The Sydney politician has made headlines for his recent extravagant wedding, accusations of preferential voting for certain developments, and now faces criminal charges over alleged threats to the father of a Lindt Cafe siege survivor.

"I think the Deputy Mayor of Auburn needs some kind of reality check, to be honest," Mr Williamson said. -APN NEWSDESK

Topics:  councils editors picks election campaign high court local local government political donations



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