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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Disclosure laws must pass the Macca and Eddie test

Media release: 11 February 2013

The Greens have released proposed changes to the requirements on members of the NSW parliament to disclose their incomes and assets.

('Call for jail for MPs who fail to declare financial interests', Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Feb 2013, p. 2, http://j.mp/smh130211)

Greens NSW MP John Kaye says that the changes would make it much more difficult for MPs to accumulate assets without the public and their colleagues becoming aware of any sudden influx of wealth. The days of hiding payouts in family trusts or the back accounts of relatives must come to an end.

The declarations proposals go much further than Labor's plans announced a week ago. The Greens would change the regulations and introduce new laws (see attached) to:

*    extend disclosure requirements to the assets, income, loans and trusts involving all family members (i.e. spouse or partner, children, children's partners, including parents if the member receives any benefit from them);

*    require MPs and their family members to explain sudden changes in wealth;

*    require all trusts involving MPs or their family members to be fully disclosed;

    oblige an MP holding an interest in a non-listed company that has business dealings with a state agency or a local council, or who has a family member who holds such an interest, to disclose the details;

*    ensure that all MPs fully declare any representations to ministers and parliamentary secretaries where the outcome could benefit them or a family member; and

*    require members to disclose any gift or benefit received within two years of a parliamentary debate from a corporation or organisation that could potentially benefit from or be affected by the outcome.

All Greens NSW MPs have agreed to make discretionary disclosures to fulfil the standards the party wants to set for all state politicians.

The Greens are also calling on Premier Barry O'Farrell to  make significant and deliberate failures to disclose or false disclosures a criminal matter with a jail term of up to 5 years. Conviction would result in the automatic expulsion of a member from parliament.

Media comment

Greens NSW MP John Kaye said: "It is not just Labor that is suffering at ICAC. Parliament's reputation is taking a hit. Premier Barry O'Farrell should act immediately to restore public confidence by bringing in laws that fully expose MPs' and the their families' assets and incomes and punish those that fail to make full and honest declarations.

"Voters have a right to know if elected members are hiding assets or income in trusts or in the bank accounts of spouses or children. They should be alerted if family members have business dealings with state or local government agencies, even if it is through unlisted companies.

"While John Robertson's proposals are a good beginning, they would still fail the Macca and Eddie test.

"Too much of the behaviour alleged before the ICAC hearings could pass without being declared unless there are much deeper changes to the disclosure requirements and they are backed up with tough criminal penalties.

"Labor still leaves open the opportunity to hide corrupt payments as loans in trusts. Sudden changes in wealth could go unexplained and unlisted companies could  still be used to hide dodgy business dealings with state and local government agencies.

"There is little use in allowing parliament to act as judge and jury in pecuniary interest matters. Government MPs would mostly get off without penalty. Deliberate and significant failure to disclose  or wilful false declarations must be treated as a criminal matter and elected officials should face jail and removal from office.

"Our proposals are tough and impinge on the privacy of MPs and their family members. We have unforgiving penalties for deliberately failing to disclose important matters.

"These are the rules people who want to be in public office will have to obey if the reputation of parliament is to be restored and democracy made safe from those who see politics as a path to massive fortunes," Dr Kaye said.

For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455

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