Call for ban on political donations

REDLAND City Council will write to the state government calling on it to ban political donations.

Division 1 councillor Craig Ogilvie initially asked council to push for a cap on political donations, after he declared a conflict of interest for indirect donations.

His suggestion would have allowed councillors to raise funds up to a capped amount set by the state from the private sector and be reimbursed an amount from the public sector.

However, after fiery debate that plea was overruled when Division 5 councillor Mark Edwards asked for the ban to be extended to cover all types of donations.

It would extend to funding from gambling, developers and the tobacco industry.

Cr Edwards said he believed the current system worked well as councillors who declared conflicts of interest left chambers during voting on issues involving them personally.

During debate, Cr Edwards admitted he agreed with the initial request for a cap and said he was going to vote against his own suggestion to allow debate at a councillor workshop.

Ultimately, however, Cr Edwards along with Mayor Karen Williams and councillors Alan Beard, Julie Talty, Paul Gleeson, Lance Hewlett and Kim Hardman voted to call for the total ban. 

After the meeting, Cr Ogilvie said he was delighted with the outcome as it highlighted the need for comprehensive electoral reform.

“I'm incredibly impressed council has acknowledged there is a problem here," Cr Ogilvie said.

“I would have preferred an approach that gets the right mix of public and private funding of elections to keep it a level playing field, which would liberate councillors and allow a battle of ideas.

“But we have sent a message to all councils and state."

The call, at Wednesday's council meeting, follows a High Court decision in New South Wales on October 7 in which seven judges outlawed developer donations.

Mayor Karen Williams declared a conflict of interest along with four others at the start of debate, claiming she had honestly made public all her 922 donations.

She said it would be a challenge for mayoral candidates to run campaigns without political donations or public funding.

She also warned councillors that under the new NSW legislation, donations were regarded broadly as anything ranging from people handing out political flyers or borrowing printers.

"There is no question that I have been completely transparent - whatever the state decides as legislation, I will do," she said.

Deputy mayor Alan Beard, who voted to ask for a total ban, said the ban would really only affect mayoral candidates who needed donations to fund city-wide campaigns.

He said Cr Williams always left chambers when there was a perceived conflict of interest and he would sign a statutory declaration saying she had never lobbied him to vote in a particular way.


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