Shane Rattenbury attacks move to scrap $10,000 donation cap
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Shane Rattenbury attacks move to scrap $10,000 donation cap

Greens minister Shane Rattenbury has labelled moves by the major parties to scrap the ACT's $10,000 cap on donations as an attack on democracy and called on voters to demonstrate their opposition.

The balance of power Assembly member has launched a new website www.gov4sale.org.au, linking the legislation to the widespread graft uncovered by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption and calling the proposed ACT changes "anti-democratic".

Cap donations: Shane Rattenbury.

Cap donations: Shane Rattenbury. Credit:Rohan Thomson

Set to be debated in the Assembly on Thursday, the new rules would also see a fourfold increase in public funding for politicians from $2 a vote to $8. The changes weren't recommended by officials or election experts, but rather came out of an Assembly select committee.

In a petition directed to Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson, Mr Rattenbury says the ACT should learn from NSW and not "leave our democracy open to the influence of big money".

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Nearly 400 people had signed the petition on Monday.

"I met with the Liberal Party on Friday and I have spoken to Andrew Barr again... so I am hopeful that both the Labor and Liberal parties will realise the level of community disquiet about a move like this," Mr Rattenbury said.

"I think people, in light of what we have seen in New South Wales particularly, expect a level of both transparency and constraint around donations. I think people see a linkage between large donations and a level of political influence."

The legislation reduces the cap on the amount candidates can spend on campaigns from $60,000 to $40,000, however the change won't impact the total amount spent as the Assembly grows from 17 members to 25.

The total spending for a major party would still be capped at $1 million. Electoral Commissioner Phillip Green told the Assembly last year that a $40,000 limit could unreasonably disadvantage independents.

The Government also plans for "associated entities" to be separate under the laws meaning Labor's ACT Labor Club and 1973 Foundation would be able to spend an extra $40,000 each on campaigns.

While experts have slammed the planned changes, Mr Rattenbury looks set to vote alone.

"Prevention is always better than a cure so I would argue strongly that we should keep the current approach to avoid creating a system that could see us go down the path of New South Wales.

"I think we're fortunate here that there hasn't been evidence of that kind of corrupt behaviour and I think we should be striving to keep the systems in place that prevent us going in that direction," he said.

On Monday, Deputy Chief Minister Simon Corbell said the government would push ahead with removing the $10,000 cap on donations to political parties

"The ACT has very strict rules on expenditure and, indeed, we are reducing the amount of money that can be spent per candidate in an election campaign," Mr Corbell said.

"It will be less on the next election than it was in the last ACT election.

"The ACT has some of the strictest disclosure rules in the country and they are not going to be changed. Any donation over $1000 must be declared and during the election period must be declared within a very short period of time. We believe that an emphasis on disclosure and a cap on expenditure is the most appropriate way to prevent undue influence on political parties as a result of political donations."

Tom McIlroy is a political reporter for the Financial Review in the federal press gallery at Parliament House.

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