4.1 - Confidence in the electoral system and political parties
This commitment will enhance the integrity of, and confidence in, Australia’s electoral system.
This commitment will advance the OGP values of accountability, transparency and access to information by:
reducing the risk of undemocratic behaviour and conduct, which leads to the perception or reality of corrupt behaviour by politicians and political parties; and
increasing public confidence in Australian democracy.
The Government asked Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) to investigate a range of matters relating to the 2016 federal election. Following a series of referrals to the High Court, the Prime Minister has also asked the JSCEM to investigate options for assuring the public that all members of the Parliament are constitutionally eligible to serve.
The JSCEM has tabled three interim reports to date:
- Interim Report on the authorisation of voter communication (tabled 9 December 2016)
- Second interim report on the inquiry into the conduct of the 2016 federal election: Foreign Donations (tabled 10 March 2017), and
- Third interim report on the inquiry into the conduct of the 2016 federal election: AEC modernisation (tabled 21 June 2017).
These reports were based on an extensive public consultation process, which involved the receipt of 209 public submissions and 12 public hearings at locations across Australia.
The JSCEM has also finalised further reports relating to eligibility under Section 44 of the Constitution:
- Inquiry into decisions made by the Court of Disputed Returns (tabled 6 February 2018); and
- Excluded: the impact of section 44 on Australian democracy (tabled 17 May 2018).
The JSCEM continues to work with civil society through holding public hearings and inviting public submissions, with additional reports expected to be tabled in 2018.
Informed by JSCEM’s findings, the Government is taking action to enhance integrity and confidence in Australia’s electoral system.
On 15 September, 2017, the Electoral and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (Authorisation Amendment Act) became law. The Authorisation Amendment Act addresses many of the recommendations of the JSCEM First Interim Report, and is expected to contribute to this commitment by enhancing the transparency of communication with voters.
On 7 December 2017, the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017 (Foreign Donations Bill) was introduced into Parliament, addressing the second JSCEM interim report. The Foreign Donations Bill contains a range of measures that seek to improve public confidence in the integrity of the electoral system by:
- improving the transparency of political finance, and
- preventing undue influence on Australian democracy, and the perception thereof.
JSCEM has completed an inquiry into the Bill, and tabled its report on 9 April 2018. JSCEM made 15 recommendations. The committee unanimously agreed that foreign donations for the purpose of election campaigning should be banned. The Government has addressed the recommendations through draft amendments to the original Bill. The Government is seeking passage of the Bill in 2018 so that the reforms are in place for the next federal election.
The Government addressed the issues around mechanisms to assure the public that all members of the Parliament are constitutionally eligible to serve. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Eligibility) Regulations 2018 introduced a voluntary checklist to change and improve the nomination process for candidates, effective from 30 May 2018. The change added an eligibility checklist to the candidate nomination forms, which candidates may choose to complete upon nomination. The Government has committed to introducing legislation making it compulsory for candidates nominating at the next federal election to complete a checklist demonstrating their eligibility under section 44 of the Constitution.
Government: Australian Electoral Commission, Attorney-General’s Department, JSCEM.
Non-Government: JSCEM is anticipated to engage with political parties, non-government organisations and the public.
Steps to implementation
|Implementation Step||Implementation Period||Status|
JSCEM inquiry and reporting.
The original timelines assumed the JSCEM would conclude its inquiries in 2017. However, the JSCEM continues to work with civil society through further public hearings, with additional reports expected to be tabled 2018. Accordingly, the shift in timeframes reflect the Parliament’s continued work on matters relating to the integrity of, and confidence in, Australia’s electoral system.
|2016-2018 (further progress subject to Committee reporting)||On-track|
Government considers recommendations.
The shift in timeframes reflect the Parliament’s continued work on matters relating to the integrity of, and confidence in, Australia’s electoral system (see above).
|2017 - 2018 (subject to JSCEM reporting)||On-track|
Parliament and other relevant stakeholders address Government decisions.
Status updates for commitments are provided approximately every two months. With each update, agencies are encouraged to provide further and better particulars of the commitment and its steps to implementation, which may result in changes to timelines outlined in Australia’s first Open Government National Action Plan 2016-18.