Faulkner calls for reforms to political party funding

SENIOR Labor Party figure Senator John Faulkner has hit out at Australian Parliament inaction to address crucial reforms to political party funding.

In a wide-ranging speech to an "integrity in government" conference in Melbourne on Tuesday, the Labor elder also attacked systemic factional problems within the New South Wales Labor Party.

Senator Faulkner, who has long been an advocate of improving parliamentary integrity and political party funding laws, outlined six reforms he said were critical to renewing public confidence in the political system.

Among the six reforms he called for action on were several reforms to political party funding, donation disclosure, a ban on foreign donations and lowering the threshold for disclosure of political party donations to $1000.

All of those reforms were recommended in numerous committee inquiries into the issue in the past three years, including a Joint Select Committee on Electoral Matters investigation this year.

But despite a pledge from the Gillard Government to the independent MPs to deliver these reforms by the end of the parliamentary year, they were not completed.

"There is no excuse for further delay on these important integrity reforms," Senator Faulkner said on Tuesday.

"The legislation is mostly drafted, the issues have been widely canvassed, the arguments understood and the need for major reform urgent.

"This needs to happen before the end of the current parliament."

While he also applauded several integrity reforms which have been completed since the 2007 election, Senator Faulkner attributed much of the public's contempt and disregard for the parliament to the inaction by parliament to reform the laws.

"Ladies and gentlemen, transparency around political donations is vital to maintaining public trust in our political system because our electoral processes are a fundamental part of our democracy," he said.

Senator Faulkner reaffirmed the need for reforms on the basis of the public funds available to political parties which can secure more than 4% of the primary vote in an election.

"In the 2010 election, public funding provided $2.31 for each primary vote cast in the election for both houses of parliament," he said.

"Over $53 million was paid out in 2010, with $23.5 million going to the Coalition parties, $21 million to Labor and $7.2 million to the Greens.

"In the past four Federal elections, over $180 million of public funding has been dispersed, with over 80% of that funding going to the two major parties in reimbursement of their election costs."

But his 20-page speech did not end with proposals for reforms to the federal parliamentary system, with scathing comments about the dominance of NSW political factions in that state's Labor Party.

The NSW Labor Party has been in the headlines in recent months for all the wrong reasons - stemming from an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into senior state Labor figures including ALP powerbroker Eddie Obeid.

Senator Faulkner said it was time to publicly acknowledge there were some in the party's ranks with neither the political principles to defence, nor moral convictions to uphold.

"They are a small minority, in a very big majority of decent, ethical, people," he said.

"But the fact that they are few in number does not diminish the gravity of the accusations against them, or the seriousness of their acts."

Senator Faulkner also outlined numerous internal party reforms to halt the continued dominance of factional influence within the NSW Labor Party.



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