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Electoral Amendment Bill 2019

21 March 2019

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, first, I take 
this opportunity to welcome our newest member to the House and to 
congratulate him on his inaugural speech. There are things that he said 
that resonate with everyone in this place. I have taken notes but it is 
good to have you here, Mr Tucker.

The Greens will be supporting the Electoral Amendment Bill 2019. How 
could we not? However, on the way through I need to point out some of the 
deficiencies in this Government's approach to what is an urgent need for 
electoral reform in Tasmania, for far greater transparency in relation to 
the conduct of elections, the money that flows to political parties and 
candidates, the level of transparency around that money, how much money 
can be spent, whether or not there should be, as there are in other 
jurisdictions, around the country, public funding allocated to elections 
in Tasmania.

I also commend Ms Haddad on her contribution, which struck many of the 
right notes, particularly in relation to some of the flaws in this 
Government's approach to a pressing need for electoral reform in Tasmania. 
This is not me pulling out props but during the election campaign, every 
single day there were tens of thousands of dollars' worth of pro-Liberal, 
pro-gambling industry advertisements placed inside our newspapers, on our 
airwaves, on our televisions, on social media and even on children's iPads
. That wall-to-wall advertising was funded primarily by the gambling 
industry in Tasmania, and it just goes on and on. The ABC, in something I 
read not long ago, estimated that in one day in this state there was about $
48 000 worth of pro-Liberal, pro-gambling industry advertising in print 
alone. What we know is that the negative campaigning, the fear campaign, 
began on our televisions during the Boxing Day Test and continued 
relentlessly after that.

Madam Speaker, all of us who have worked in politics for a while - and I 
have worked in television journalism - know that it costs a lot of money 
to put just one television advertisement to air. What it cost to fund the 
Liberals' fear campaign on our airwaves is something Tasmanians will never 
know, but it was millions. Ms Haddad is right, there were millions of 
dollars spent on advertising in order to support a Liberal Party win at 
the last state election, and those millions of dollars are still concealed 
from the people of Tasmania. The people of Tasmania went to the election 
on 3 March last year not knowing which vested interest donated how much to 
the major parties. The reason people knew what the Greens had received 
was because we had secured a policy position at our 2016 state conference 
that the Greens would publish donations in real time.

The bottom line is that we are an open book on the money we receive. It 
is a fraction of the money the Labor Party receives during campaigns and a 
minute fraction of the money that was received by the state Liberal Party 
going into the last state election. It is important to remember that 
there is the money that went to the party, there was the money that was 
donated to state Liberal headquarters, there is also the money that went 
into the Love Your Local campaign, which will not come up on the 
Australian Electoral Commission returns, and there is also the money that 
the Federal Group poured into its pro-industry, anti-Labor, anti-Greens, 
pro-Liberal advertising campaign which was not about making sure 
Tasmanians can exercise their free choice about the forms of recreation 
and entertainment they enjoy but solely with the purpose of locking in the 
profits of the Federal Group and the gambling industry in Tasmania for 
another quarter of a century.

During the campaign it was confronting to face that wall-to-wall negative 
advertising and see that it was coming from so many different directions, 
all of them about locking in the profits of a predatory industry. It was 
disheartening to see my colleagues in the Liberal Party put their 
corflutes on gambling venues because when we are elected to this place, we 
swear to serve the interests of the people of Tasmania. That is our job, 
that is our responsibility. We are elected in faith and entrusted to 
serve the interests of the people of Tasmania. In the last state election 
campaign, my Liberal colleagues in this place, and other candidates, were 
serving the interests of the gambling industry. They were bought and paid 
for by the gambling industry and the history is there for all to see.

When we go to the Australian Electoral Commission returns, from what 
little information we do get out of the Liberal Party's return, it is 
clear that of around $4.1 million received by the state Liberal Party, the 
source of some $3 million remains a mystery to the people of Tasmania. 
That is disgraceful, disgusting and immoral. That is at the heart of the 
cynicism I believe I heard from Ms Haddad, or the concern. Sorry, Ms 
Haddad, I will try not to unfairly post motive on you, but there is a deep 
cynicism the Greens in this place have about the process of the electoral 
reform which was been initiated by the Attorney-General whose corflutes 
were all over gambling venues.

Ms Haddad - Definitely we share that cynicism.

Ms O'CONNOR - We share that cynicism and concern, I am sure, Ms Haddad.

When you have a look at the terms of reference for the review the word 
'transparency' does not rate a mention, and ultimately an effective 
electoral framework and good donations disclosure provisions should be 
founded on the principle of transparency as a bedrock of a healthy 
democracy. Instead what we have are a narrow terms of reference which has 
been designed to confine the extent of the reforms in a second tranche we 
have been promised by the Attorney-General. 

The terms of reference, as the Attorney-General tells us, are guided by 
two principles, protecting freedom of speech with note to constitutional 
implications, she says, and minimal cost to the taxpayer. It is difficult 
to understand how it is a positive for freedom of speech, the implied 
right to political communication in our Constitution, when millions of 
dollars are coming in from vested interests that are undisclosed. That is 
not a freedom of speech issue. That is a vested interest trying to 
distort good policy debates in an election campaign, and with enormous 
success last year. 

I truly believe that if in a state election we had robust donation 
disclosure laws and public funding of campaigns, as occurs in the 
Commonwealth and other state and territory jurisdictions, and if elections 
were a genuine contest of policies and values, we would have a Greens 
government in Tasmania, because we were the only party that took really 
robust, democratic donations disclosure integrity policies into the 
campaign. We were the only party that developed a plan to deal with 
climate change in Tasmania. We were the only party that took a policy on 
planning for population growth to the last state election. Our housing 
policy was far and away the strongest of all the three parties.

It is not a matter of free speech. In fact corrupted donations laws 
stifle speech on good policy and values, and that is what happened last 
March. People might point to us and say it is sour grapes. It is not 
sour grapes, I am just furious for democracy. I am just devastated for 
the people who will be harmed by poker machines over the next 25 years if 
Labor does not find its spine and help us deal with that legislation early 
next year. The consequences of a gambling industry buying a government 
back will have profound social and economic implications for Tasmania for 
another quarter of a century and then some, out to 2048. 

It is also concerning that the guiding principles include minimal cost to 
the taxpayer in such a narrow way, which does not acknowledge the cost to 
our society and to taxpayers of having poker machines in pubs and clubs in 
areas of disadvantage around Tasmania. Anglicare commissioned work by 
Professor John Mangan, released early last year or late 2017. From 
recollection, Professor Mangan found that the social clean-up costs of 
poker machines in pubs and clubs in Tasmania is more than $100 million a 
year. When you think about it, that is not too hard to understand because 
you have poker machines placed in areas of entrenched disadvantage. We 
know that people who are experiencing mental illness and addiction are not 
making reasoned choices about how they spend their money and their time. 
Anyone who has spoken to an addict of poker machines will understand that 
along with the decision to spend what little money they have on these 
predatory machines. Without exception, every gambling addict I have 
spoken to is battling other demons in their life - depression, anxiety, 
trauma, childhood trauma, poverty, homelessness and disconnection from 
their community. You only need to walk past gaming rooms to see this. 

While I avoid Wrest Point Casino like a toxic plague, I had to walk 
through the Launceston Country Club Casino last week to attend the Honour 
Roll of Tasmanian Women. I walked past the gaming room and no-one in 
there looked happy and that is because they are not. They are sitting in 
front of a robotic machine that is sucking the money out of their pockets. 
I hear Mr Shelton over here having a chuckle. If you want to interject, 
say it.

Mr Shelton - You are the ultimate reader of how people feel as you walk up 
a corridor looking across at a group of people; you know exactly how they 
feel.

Ms O'CONNOR - I said nobody looked happy. I have also spent enough time 
in pokie venues in my life, whether it is because of my professional work 
or my family history, to know that. People who sit down in front of poker 
machines for extended periods, and repeatedly, are not happy. Anyone who 
doubts that needs to watch Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation, which is a documentary 
I hope my colleagues on the Government benches have watched. It is a 
documentary highlighting what drives people to gambling addiction in the 
most stark and distressing detail. People who have held down high-powered, 
high-demand jobs, people who have been successful in business, people who 
have raised a family, and there can be a triggering event in their life 
that causes mental distress, disconnection or desperation and that is what 
drives them into the venues.

The Tasmanian Hospitality Association, the Federal Group and other 
gambling venues are highly aware of the vulnerability of the people they 
target with the rollout of poker machines in pubs and clubs. The reason 
we know that is because, when you look at the overlay of where the some 
more than 2500 EGMs in our communities outside the casino, it is in areas 
of socio-economic disadvantage.

If you could go back to the original Kids Come First dataset, scotched by 
the Liberals when they came to Government, which was an excellent dataset, 
you could overlay the experiences of children's lives with socio-economic 
disadvantage indicators. You could see a very clear, at least 
geographical, link between where these machines are deliberately placed 
and instances of child abuse and neglect. There is a connection between 
areas with these machines and where people are struggling, and with child 
abuse, neglect, family violence, homelessness, poverty, mental illness and 
addiction.

The decision the Premier and the Treasurer made going into the last state 
election to give the gambling industry exactly the framework it wanted and 
thus to take those millions of dollars in blood money has stained their 
souls. There are people in this place who do not believe in a soul; I 
certainly do. The actions we take over our lifetime shape that inner 
spirit. In our hearts we know when we have not done our best, when we 
have not done the right thing, when we have not tried hard enough, or when 
we have let people down. We know that in our quiet moments. Every member 
sitting on this Government's benches sold their soul to the gambling 
industry at the last state election and they will wear that stain on their 
souls for the rest of their lives.

They escape lightly, unlike the thousands of Tasmanians who will suffer as 
a result of the gambling industry deciding to buy Government so it could 
lock in its profits for the next 30 years. It locked in profits and 
expanded its value because of the policy the Liberals took to the state 
election, which was not their original policy; it was the policy the THA 
and Greg Farrell asked for. Once that policy to individually licence 
venues comes into effect it will, overnight, substantially increase the 
value of the venues and will lock in the profits of venues for the next 25 
years. The estimated windfall gained by people who understand these 
numbers is around $250 million out to 2048 and that is only on the 
individual licensing model extra value to the industry.

Pardon my cynicism, and that of the Greens, but when we look at this 
electoral amendment bill of 2019, it is exactly as Ms Haddad said, there 
is an important change about publication on election day but it is mostly 
an administrative bill that took a year to pull together. Unlike other 
members in this place, the Government has access to the Office of 
Parliamentary Counsel. It has whole government agencies at its fingertips
. If this Liberal Government was serious about electoral reform, we would 
have had a bill in here last year. If this Liberal Government was serious 
about making sure there is transparency around donations in Tasmania, it 
would have delivered an electoral amendment bill that went to the core 
issues.

The Greens also made a submission on the interim report. We have made a 
number of recommendations which are all based on the evidence. We had the 
Attorney-General and the Premier this morning talk about how complicated 
it is to reform the Electoral Act. What rubbish. Every other Australian 
jurisdiction has managed to put electoral laws in place that deliver at 
least a measure of transparency. This is not a new area of law we are 
talking about. The Commonwealth Electoral Act has been in place for 
decades. It is clear that the heel-dragging on this issue again comes 
from the self-interest of the Liberal Party.

We support and would like to see - and we have some amendments we will be 
discussing today - the Senate Select Committee into the Political 
Influence of Donations recommendations for a fixed disclosure threshold of $
1000. We support public funding of election campaigns. The current rules 
would recommend the Australian average of about $4.15 per first preference 
vote in 2018-19, indexed at an appropriate rate each financial year. 
Before we get the squawking from the conservatives about public funding of 
elections, it happens at a Commonwealth level and in every other 
Australian state. We are the only jurisdiction in Australia that does not 
have public funding. Public funding does not totally replace donations 
but it provides a measure of a level playing field. 

Because the Greens do not take dirty money - we do not take corporate 
donations and would never take the kind of money that the Liberals took at 
the last election - we raise money through raffles. 

A member - From a gambler. 

Ms O'CONNOR - Are you talking about Mr Duncan Turpie, the organic farmer 
from south-east Queensland who donated to us, who also happens to gamble 
on horses? Is that what you are trying to desperately point out in order 
to salvage some of your pride in here today?

Mr Shelton - Isn't Mr Graeme Wood's donation to the Greens the biggest 
single donation to a party in Tasmania?

Ms O'CONNOR - No, you need to get your history right if you are going to 
try to sling dirt. Graeme Wood made a donation to the Australian Greens, 
and he made it as an individual. Unlike your donors, Mr Shelton, Mr Wood 
did not ask for anything in return other than the Greens to get a good 
vote. Talk about clutching at straws. 

In our submission we stated our support for a cap of $81 000 for 
individual candidate expenditure and $810 000 for party expenditure in 
House of Assembly elections, indexing up. So people have a sense of what 
some parties spend, it is in our AEC return. We had an election budget of 
around $400 000. That primarily paid for a campaign manager and some 
staff in electorates. I made a personal donation that was quite 
substantive. That was my family donating. We had raffles, we had dinners, 
we had emails going out to members. We would approach our loyal members 
who sometimes can make reasonable sized donations in the order of $1000 to $
5000. That is the sort of money that comes to the Greens and none of it 
has those filthy brown strings attached.

We support the regulation of the political activities of third parties and 
associated entities. The most obvious examples of that at the moment are 
the third party that was the Federal Group in the last campaign; the 
Tasmanian Hospitality Association, which slung $270 000 to the Liberals in 
the last campaign; and the Love Your Local campaign. Who are Love Your 
Local, Madam Speaker? We have never really got to the bottom of that, 
have we? Unregulated, undisclosed, undeclared, illegitimate, corrupting 
of democracy money.

We support a donation cap of $3000 aggregate per donor per parliamentary 
term, and this has come out of the Senate select committee report. We 
support strongly banning donations from corporate donors and, at a minimum, 
donations from property developers, as they have in New South Wales, and 
the tobacco, liquor and gaming industries, and we support a ban on foreign 
donations.

The Australian Electoral Commission returns that came out on 18 February 
this year made it clear that the Liberal Party accepted at least one 
donation from a foreign entity, and that was a $25 000 contribution from 
Vanderry Limited which, because of the way that purchase was financed, is 
owned by the Chinese Communist government because they own all the banks 
in China, so the Liberals accepted $25 000 from a company which has a 
massive debt to the Chinese government. 

Again, it is the weakness of this approach to electoral changes. Even the 
federal Liberals have moved to ban foreign donations, even Scott 
Morrison's government and the federal parliament has moved to ban foreign 
donations because they know it has a profoundly corrupting influence on 
the exercise of a sovereign democracy. 

While I am talking about this, I hope members of the Labor Party 
understand they are complicit in this too at a federal level. The Labor 
Party has accepted vast sums of money from foreign interests. Former 
senator Sam Dastyari knows full well the consequences of taking money with 
strings attached and he got exactly what he deserved. 

I would like to ask the Attorney-General why, at the bare minimum, there 
was not a provision to ban donations from foreign entities to reflect the 
change to Commonwealth law.

The change to the Electoral Act 2004 that relates to the publication of 
content relating to the campaign on election day is welcome. It is a 
reasonable reform that recognises that in an age of social media and the 
dissemination of news and information via various mechanisms, a ban on 
print content on the day of an election is ridiculous. Now we will have a 
capacity for journalists to have their stories published on election day 
and I hope that new authority will be exercised carefully.

Madam Speaker, Dr Woodruff will be getting up to make a contribution 
shortly. We have a suite of amendments that we would like to discuss with 
the Attorney-General. We will be going into Committee and the minister's 
response to some of the issues we have raised will determine whether we 
proceed with that suite of amendments now. The question is, are we going 
to see good legislation come before the parliament next year after the 
review process, because we believe that is exactly what Tasmanians are 
demanding?