The $999 limit for donations from individuals and $9,999 from organisations before they have to be disclosed has always struck me as ludicrous.
MPs may not be held in high regard by many people, but does anyone seriously believe one or more could be bought for that little?
Stephen Franks reveals that MPs definitely thought it was far too low:
During that debate (behind closed doors) the United Future MP Murray Smith, persuaded us to have a frank discussion about what amount of money we thought would actually be likely to influence a party’s manifesto. We eventually reached a consensus that it was around $50k.
I may be naive but I don’t think an MP or party could be bought for that amount either, but at least it’s a sum which would allow most of those who, for good reasons, might wish to donate to a political party to do so anonymously if they chose to.
Those good reasons include:
* Modesty – I know a lot of people who donate anonymously to all sorts of organisations because they don’t want any publicity.
* Wanting to keep the donation a secret from a partner, family or friends. Not everyone feels free to disclose their political views, especially if they’re in an unequal relationship where they’re the less powerful person.
* Wanting to keep the donation secret from an employer. Some employees may feel their employers don’t share their political views and may be concerned that a public donation might put them at a disadvantage.
*Wanting to keep the donation secret from employees. Some employers may not wish their staff to know their political allegances.
* Wanting to keep the donation secret from associates or clients because the donor might feel it could harm their business.
* Wanting to keep donations secret from other parties. Some people give to more than one party and might not want them all to know that.
Many of those who want full disclosure of donations argue it’s to stop big business and wealthy individuals buying influence. But if the amount is set too low it catches a whole lot of “little” people who want to help a party whose policies they support but don’t want others to know they’re doing it.
Apropos of this, Labour secretary Mike Smith says big donations are drying up.
Would that have anything to do with the Electoral Finance Act, the unpopularity of his party’s policies and the recession?