Vic political donation reform to cost $45m

Changes to Victorian electoral laws mean only one sign per candidate allowed at polling booths.Victorian taxpayers will fork out $45 million to soften the blow of proposed tighter restrictions on political donations and police new election campaign rules.

A raft of reforms reached state parliament on Tuesday, including the estimated cost to Victorians over four years.

Donations from individuals and organisations to political parties will be capped at $4000 over the same period and foreign donations are banned completely.

“Public funding will be increased to be able to make up for the shortfall, in relation to what will be the donation loss,” Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings told reporters.

“We are confident that will change, once and for all, the nature of concern in our community about the potential for political influence and contamination of the decisions of government.”

Parties currently get $1.79 per vote after an election, but under the proposed system will get $6 for each Legislative Assembly vote and $3 for every Legislative Council vote.

Parties will also get $40,000 per MP each year for administrative costs to help manage the complicated accounting that will go with the changes.

For example, the rules around fundraising events and what portion of ticket and table prices is classified as a donation also depends on costs such as the venue, entertainment and meals, and will progressively go towards the $4000 cap.

The changes mean about $45 million over four years will be needed to fund the new system.

Further changes include reducing the disclosure limit from $13,500 to $1000 per financial year and up to a decade in prison for failing to comply.

Donations will be published online within weeks of being made and organisations that are affiliated or a member of parties will also need to report donations and political activity annually.

Anyone who spends more than $2000 telling people how they should vote, needs to disclose details to the Victorian Electoral Commission.

Unions cannot donate to individual candidates or contribute more than $4000 in donations or campaigning, but can stay affiliated with the ALP.

The new laws would progressively come into effect from July 1, but first need to pass parliament.

The government is also introducing electoral changes to streamline early voting arrangements and ban bunting and other political material, with the exception of one sign per candidate, within 100 metres of polling booths.

“We’re preventing all of that proliferation of that plastic warfare that takes place around polling stations,” Mr Jennings said.

The Greens said the government had been “dragged kicking and screaming” into the reforms, but was supportive of it in principle.

The Liberal-Nationals opposition will consider the reforms before commenting.