Matters of Public Importance – Donations to Political Parties, 8 February, 2023

Senator BABET (Victoria—United Australia Party Whip) (17:44): The Prime Minister warned on Sunday in a speech at the Chifley Research Centre that democracy was ‘fragile’, and so it needed to be ‘nourished, protected, cared for and treated with respect’. That’s what he said. Those were his words, and I agree wholeheartedly with the Prime Minister. But the PM’s words beg the question, ‘How, Prime Minister?’ How do we nourish and protect democracy? Our system of government, where people consent to be governed, is fragile, because it is built entirely upon trust. People give their consent to be governed because they trust that their elected reps will be acting honestly and with integrity. How do you nourish trust? How do you build faith? The answer is transparency. Trust can only exist to the degree of transparency that is given.

The United Australia Party believes in full disclosure of all political donations, no matter how large or how small. The UAP has one donor, just one, and we all know who it is. You can like it or you can not like it, but at least you know. He’s an Australian citizen. He loves this country. There’s your transparency. That is not the case with the major parties, not the case at all. Some donations may not even be declared. Non-disclosure of donations—what does it do? It raises questions and it creates room for doubt, suspicion, mistrust—the very things that undermine our system of government.

If the Prime Minister truly wants to nourish and protect democracy, he will move to ensure that all political party donations are declared and are on the public record. Transparency creates trust. Trust strengthens democracy. If the PM meant what he said on Sunday about full transparency with regards to political donations, it’s something he should embrace without hesitation. Any reluctance to do so increases doubt, suspicion and mistrust. Let’s not undermine democracy.