Donation cap limits speech, warns academic
LIMITS on political donations will limit free speech, an academic expert on campaign finance has warned.
The Greens have been accused of "moral bankruptcy" by Liberal Senate leader Eric Abetz for accepting $1.6 million from Graeme Wood, the founder of online travel giant Wotif -- the largest individual donation in Australian political history -- while pressing for a ban on gifts from individuals worth more than $1000.
Centre for Independent Studies fellow Andrew Norton said the donation demonstrated the altruistic nature of most campaign contributions.
"It's a transparent case of a purely ideologically motivated donation," he said yesterday. Mr Norton said there was normally no way to judge what motivated donations, but warned: "If you try to ban donations to buy influence on a particular party, you also ban all other donations."
He said the donation showed the Greens and minor parties could prosper within the existing campaign finance framework, which was "not inherently rigged". He warned that the cap on donations demanded by the Greens would dampen debate.
"What it does is restrict successful campaigning to groups that already have existing large constituencies in the community, either parties that have existing support bases or causes people are in favour of," he said.
Overseas political donations have already been banned under the accord struck between Labor and the Greens last August, yet the Greens received significant support from overseas donors.
Mr Norton pointed to an unintended consequence of NSW laws capping political donations and campaign expenditure. "Candidates can still spend their own money," he said. "It will be similar to the US, where people who are rich, incumbent and celebrities have an advantage as they already have the money or the profile or both."