Sunday, May 20, 2012

NSW Political Donations Law: When eating my wife’s cooking is a crime!!

The Local Election seminar last Thursday turned to circus when activists and possible candidates for the election listened to the details of the lunatic NSW Political Donations Law. We discovered (and we admitted responsibility by the end of the seminar) that we have committed offences and crimes under the above mentioned legislation.

By the legislation, every effort to interfere in any election in NSW is classified as “donations”. And for the purpose of serving the legislation, every cent spent by any person taking these efforts must be registered and reported to the Election Funding Authority (EFA).

So, if a local hairdresser during election time talks about election, who to vote for and why, this is considered by the legislation to be “donation” for the candidate the hairdresser supports. The hairdresser is obliged to appoint Official Agent and report how much money he spent or received in his “election campaign”.

The angry protestor, who climbed the Harbour Bridge few months ago to send a political message against current family law, is required by the legislation to appoint Official Agent. He is required to report who helped him, how much money they spent and the name, address and work of the donors. And he should be careful. If one of the donors is a worker in Tobacco Company, entertainment industry or Property Development Company, he would be liable for prosecution under the legislation. In other words, if one of the donors are one of the above mentioned categories, he is not entitled to take any action, legal or illegal.

The man will not prosecuted only for disturbing public peace, but also for electoral fraud offences.

And if an angry resident prints few hundreds of leaflets and distributed them to local homes, he would be under the same obligation of reporting. And if the money is more than $1,000, he needs to operate specific bank account, appoint Official Agent to operate the account and reporting system. And if the amount is more than $2,500, in addition to all these, he will need an auditor (who will probably charge him between $300 – 900).

If a teacher at school tries to educate the children (or adults at migrant language centre) about the political system in Australia, he would need permission from the Election Funding Authority. He/she will need to be registered for funding reporting.

We did not understand what the situation of the media is!!!

So if a journalist is angry form the Greens during election campaign and wrote an article or two against them, would this be classified as “election campaigning”? Would that journalist need to be registered with the EFA? Does he/she need to appoint Official Agent and open separate bank account for the purpose of writing this article?

What a chaos!!!

What amazes us (all the active community members in the seminar) is that the system (in addition to its lunatic nature) is so flawed, impractical, discriminatory, undeomcratic and draconian.

The legislation prevents any person who is either not registered on the electoral roll or is non-citizen to talk about politics. The system allows only citizens to be active in political participation. The more than 1.5 million permanent residents and temporary residents should remain silent. They also need to remain passive, cannot donate their times, efforts and money to the prosperity of this nation.

There is other side of the discriminatory nature of the law. The workers in specific industries are required to be silent, politically stupid, have no say in the future of their nation and remain neutral of decisions that could destroy their lives. The workers of only Tobacco company, gambling industry and property development industry should be regarded as thieves, crooks and irrelevant to the political process. But the workers of sex, pharmaceutical, retail and export and import industries can do whatever they want.

The system is not allowing non-citizens to donate.... So how would we, as campaigners at a street stall, know if the by-passer donating 5 cents is in fact on the electoral roll or no!!!

Most importantly, how would the Electoral Funding Authority prove that they were non-citizens!!!

Not only this. I discovered that I really committed big offence under the legislation. But I will repeat this offence in all next elections. In the last election and to feed the volunteers on the pooling booths, my wife made them delicious sandwiches. According to the legislation, my wife is a donor. We should report this donation to the authority. But my wife is non-citizen and not on the electoral roll. So and by the legislation, my wife cannot cook and feed me. She cannot cook and feed volunteers.

Whoever was behind this law (and we understand that the Greens are proud themselves to be behind the introduction of the law) should know that it will not work. Not only this. It did not help improving our political system. On the contrary. It reduced the political participation. The law makes it very hard for independents to think about even just giving opinion on the current candidates, their political parties’ policies and the future of this nation. The law in fact suffocates democracy, kills political debate and reduces political participation (especially from marginalised groups). And most importantly, the law is impractical.

We know that the Law-and-Order arm of the authority to implement these laws is impotent to enforce these laws. All what the politician could achieve is to encourage people to lie and make false claims.

How would you prove that the sandwiches we ate on the Election Day were made by my non-citizen wife??? Who did give the politicians the authority to prevent wife from feeding her politically active husband??