Last week, the High Court handed down a significant judgment which determined whether various limitations on political donations breached the implied right of political communication in the Australian Constitution.
The case was brought forward by property developer and former Newcastle lord mayer Jeff McCloy, who was the target of a compulsory examination by the controversial anti-corruption agency, ICAC.
This time, ICAC won. However, as Chris Merritt reported in The Australian, there is a second appeal coming up in November.
In this case, the Court was specifically asked to consider whether provisions of the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 (NSW) that:
- prohibit property developers from making political donations,
- cap all political donations at a certain amount, or
- prohibit certain indirect political contributions
were “impermissible burden freedom of communication on government and political matters.
All judges accepted the position that the Australian Constitution contains unwritten rights. Likewise, the judges accepted that the laws did indirectly undermine freedom of political communication.
However, almost as unanimously, the court rejected that the laws were not justified, saying the laws were aimed at a legitimate end of preventing “corruption and undue influence”. Even the “perception of corruption” was enough to justify the restrictive laws.