There is much in the Bill that would compromise the ability of unions and other civil society groups to advocate in the public interest and to fulfil their role as important actors in the democratic process. The integrity of Australian democracy depends on supporting the role of civil society to defend the public interest, and sometimes, against powerful corporate interests. The Bill will only shift the balance further in favour of corporate interests by continuing to allow foreign corporations to influence domestic public debate and leaving civil society less able to respond to corporate media and vested interests in the form of the direct intervention in public debate by corporations themselves.
Any reforms should instead be limited to preserving the integrity of the electoral system by banning certain foreign donations to political candidates, parties and entities controlled by political parties and, if this is not possible, enhancing disclosure rules and capping donations to individual political candidates. Further consideration should be given to restricting the influence of corrupting domestic interests (such as those with certain criminal contraventions, property developers, tobacco, gambling interests and tax avoiders).
The Committee should recommend that the Bill not be passed.