Mark Zirnsak

Call to cap and expose political donations

The Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania will call on federal parliament to place caps on political donations, bring in laws to ensure greater donation disclosure and transparency and to resource a watchdog to ensure those things happen.

The proposal was brought to the Synod 2017 general meeting on Monday by the Justice and International Mission (JIM) unit.
JIM director Mark Zirnsak said there were concerns that Australia was lagging behind comparable countries in capping political donations and making them more transparent.

This led to the risk that secretive well-funded private interests could capture public policy.

As well as the unspecified cap on donations the proposal urged for a ban on parties and candidates receiving “foreign property”, a ban on anonymous donations above $50 and a requirement that donations of $1000 and above be publicly disclosed.

There is also a call that donations be made public close to the time they are made rather than once a year and that the Australian Electoral Commission be resourced to enforce that.

A question from the floor asked what the intent of the proposal was and whether it had any explicit theological backing.

Dr Zirnsak said the proposal was intended to affirm that the council of the church was approving the work the unit was doing, which would help mobilise greater support.

He said that although there was explicit theological language the proposal came out of an understanding of the gospel.
The proposal was adopted by consensus.