AIP v ECQ

Update April 3, 2020

We received our judgment on Monday March 30 at 2:30 pm. While the judge refused to give us the declaration that we wanted he did interpret the statute so as to “provide an inhibition against the commission of illegal acts or an assurance of a right to donate, and some assurance of freedom from prosecution.” (Par 63)

The court’s interpretation is applicable to all third parties, like the AIP. This includes a wide variety of organisations including advocacy organisations, churches, conservation groups and many more. In essence it says that we may take donations from “prohibited donors”, which is generally:

  1. people or corporations with more than a 20% voting interest in an entity that makes development applications for the lease or sale of land;
  2. officers of such corporations;
  3. their spouses;
  4. a unit holder with more than 20% of a trust if the trustee is the type of corporation in 1 above
  5. beneficiaries of a discretionary trust if the trustee is the type of corporation in 1 above
  6. industry representative organisations with a majority of members who are in the first three categories.

The only restriction is that we may not use, or have the intention of using, any part of those donations for an election campaign.

Mr Justice Applegarth thought the matter significant enough that he provided a summary of the judgment.

The Courier Mail  reported the case as a loss, without understanding the full ramifications of the judgment.

To listen to my interview on Steve Austin’s ABC program on the AIP vs ECQ decision, please click the media player below

 

For further information:

Updated March 19, 2020

We appeared in court on Thursday March 12, but the matter was adjourned until Monday March 16 at 1:15. Originally the Queensland Human Rights Commission was not going to intervene, but by Monday morning it had decided it should. This is the first court action which has involved the Queensland Human Rights Act.

His honour, Justice Peter Applegarth has reserved his judgment. He indicated he would get to it as quickly as he could, but that he had other matters that he could not necessarily pass on to other judges, so it would not be immediately.

Below is a list of the major documents that were filed by the parties. The hearing took three and a quarter hours.

There were four things at issue, although we were only relying on the first two and other parties were introducing the others:

  • Whether the matter was hypothetical and therefore beyond the ability of the court to issue a declaration
  • What the proper construction of the statute was which broke down to:
    • Definition of “electoral expenditure” (there are three definitions in the act)
    • Definition of “campaign”
    • Surplusage (technical, but a statute has to be read in such a way that the least number of words are wasted).
  • Whether the Queensland Human Rights Act was engaged, and how this affected the statute
  • The implied right of political communication in the Australian Constitution

We await Justice Applegarth’s judgment with interest.

Documents

Original post

We are contesting a ruling by the Electoral Commission of Queensland in the Supreme Court which threatens to stop us being a strong advocate for good policy at a state level.

Queensland has laws that prevent property developers from donating to political parties to prevent corruption. This means that property developers cannot pay to go to political party functions, cannot donate to political parties, and cannot ask other people to attend or donate.

The Australian Institute for Progress is not a political party, so there shouldn’t be an issue with property developers paying to go to our functions or donating to us, and some have done both.

We became aware of advice that the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) had given to the Property Council suggesting that property developers could not donate to organisations that might be involved in political campaigning.

So we approached the ECQ for a ruling. You can read our letter by clicking here. We received this response from the ECQ. As a result we are going to court and have lodged this originating application, supported by this affidavit. As the action proceeds we will post further documents here.

If the commission is correct it will mean that any organisation that is involved in political advocacy in this state will be unable to have property developers pay to go to their functions, or donate money to them. We are talking not just about organisations like ours, but churches, environmental organisations, sporting clubs, welfare organisations and so on, all of whom occasionally want to influence government policy.

We do not believe that this is tenable in a democracy, and that the laws were introduced to favour the Labor government.

This will be an expensive exercise and we will be looking for your support. If you want to donate to our efforts please go here.

 

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