Will the new Climate Council be pursued under campaign finance law?

The new not-for-profit Climate Council, set up to replace the now-abolished taxpayer funded Climate Commission, has had a successful launch. According to The Age, it has received $900,000 in donations in its first week.

But like other new political organisations, they seem blissfully unaware that campaign finance law means red tape for political activists.

According to The Age article, the “new body was yet to decide if it would disclose the identity of large donors.” That’s reflected in their donations page, which has no warning that large donations might be disclosed.

But the Climate Council could well be obliged to disclose donations over $12,400 under federal law.

The third party disclosure rules are triggered by, among other things, spending more than $12,400 (same figure as the donations) on “public expression of views on an issue in an election by any means”. Normally this provision has serious rule of law issues: activists have to know this year what the issues will be in the 2016 election. But in this case we can be pretty confident that climate change will be an issue in the 2016 election.

In practice, the main uncertainty for the Climate Council will be whether the AEC decides to enforce the rules. In practice they have largely ignored academic forms of activism coming from universities and think-tanks. Only campaigining organisations using paid advertising have been disclosing their political expenditure and donations.

On the other hand, the current rules were put in place by the Howard government in a quite open attempt to harass their political opponents, as I documented in this 2009 paper. Perhaps this original intent will be pursued under the Abbott government. But perhaps the party’s general commitment to free speech after the various attempts to curtail it under Labor, will make them think twice before they do.

  1. This will be a very interesting issue to watch as the Flim Flam Scammer attempts to exist on free money from gullible idiots.

  2. Giuseppe De Simone

    I am far more interested in the Council’s level of public funding (from local councils, from charities that derive a significant proportion of their funds from government grants or fees etc).

    The Federal Government has removed its funding. It would be a travesty if it is using alternate sources of tax-payer or rate-payer contributed moneys.

    As a proselytising body, the Climate Council should be required to survive solely on private benefactors.

    Of course, this area is muddied by the unwilling largesse of the tax-payer towards political parties at election time where a vote for the same party in the Senate and House of Reps is worth near enough to $5 a pop. When you add the offensive obligation of compulsory voting, the tax-payer is in effect forced to give his or her money to someone. (While I concede that an informal vote is possible, that’s not really a free choice – most people even those with a minimal interest in politics, do pick from the alternatives given their lack of awareness of the financial impact of their decision).

  3. Electoral funding is only paid for a primary vote, and there is a 4% threshold. This means you can withold your $5 by giving your primary vote to a candidate certain to fall under the 4% threshold, but your second preference to the candidate you would really prefer to see elected.

    In the Senate you should make sure to use the bottom member of a micro ticket to ensure that your vote doesn’t remain with a Muir or Dropulich type snowball candidate.

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