Legislation proposing a cap on political donations and election spending in Queensland is unlikely to take effect before the state goes to the polls in October.
The laws are expected to pass state parliament on Thursday.
Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government claims its proposed law would make elections fairer for everyone.
“Big donations are gone, they will be no more,” the premier declared when she announced the measure last year.
“We want to push back on attempts to ‘buy’ elections.”
However, spending caps that were due to take effect in time for the October state election, along with donation limits and election funding, will now be pushed back to 2022.
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath says this is due to economic implications stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said deferring the donation limits and change to public financing of parties will allow the state government to prioritise economic recovery from the health crisis.
The bill is meant to stop people or entities from influencing anyone involved in a state election campaign, including political parties, MPs, candidates or other individuals.
It will also allow parties and candidates to communicate with voters without drowning out their rivals.
It will limit donations to $6000 for single or multiple candidates from one political party over a four-year term of government.
It will also cap donations to political parties to $4000 over the same period.
A maximum on how much can be spent on a campaign will only be in place over the final 12 months of a term.
Under the bill, donations to political parties and candidates in state elections must be paid into specific bank accounts before being distributed.
Meanwhile, parties and candidates can all but forget about bombarding polling booths with signage as they’ll be limited to two signs up to a specified size within 100 metres from the entry point.
There’s also two new offences for cabinet ministers who act dishonestly and with an intention to benefit themselves or others, or cause a detriment to other people.
The offences carry a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment, or fines equivalent to 200 penalty units, and are meant to ensure conflicts of interest are declared and to reduce the risks of intentional misconduct.
Members of parliament could also lose their seat if they are convicted of either offence and sentenced to more than a year behind bars.
Caps on donations and spending were removed by the Liberal National Party under Campbell Newman.
The party says the state government’s plans stink.
“These new laws are all about the Labor Party rigging elections,” deputy leader Tim Mander said.
Australian Associated Press