The Justice and Electoral Committee has reported back to the House of Representatives on the Government's Local Electoral Amendment Bill (No 2). The Bill as introduced would amend the Local Electoral Act 2001 and the Local Electoral Regulations 2001 to align the local election funding regime with the general election funding regime (contained in the Electoral Act 1993). Local elections include elections for regional councils, territorial authorities, local and community boards, district health boards, and licensing trusts.
The Committee recommended the Bill be passed, but also suggested a number of amendments, including:
- Requiring disclosure of a return of electoral donations and expenses for each office stood for, and specifying the campaign to which an anonymous donation over $1500 was designated.
- Excluding goods and services less than $300 from the definition of 'electoral donation or donation' and including the difference between market value and discounted.
- Introducing a limitation period of three years after the offence for prosecutions.
The Committee also raises the concern that third-party expenditure and donations is not covered by the Bill. This generates potential for third-party campaigners to receive donations and promote a candidate without their permission. The Committee stresses that this should be addressed in a Bill as a matter of priority, while also recognising the complexity of the issue and tight timeframes with local authority elections taking place in October. Green Party members of the Committee presented a minority view that the changes contained in the Local Electoral (Finance) Amendment Bill (a Member's Bill) should be included in this Bill.
The Committee's full report and an amended copy of the Bill can be accessed here.