Independent MPs hit back over donor dob-in

Two independent MPs have branded the government hypocritical for encouraging party members to report funding bodies to the Australian Electoral Commission.

Special Minister for State Ben Morton encouraged Liberal MPs to refer independent groups to the electoral commission as soon as new disclosure laws come into effect.

Mr Morton took aim at advocacy groups like Climate 200 and independent “Voices of” movements, saying “activist organisations seeking to influence election outcomes will no longer be able to shroud their electoral income in secrecy”.

“Many of these funding vehicles hide in the dark – they were established with the explicit goal of avoiding electoral funding disclosure.”

It comes as the federal government survived pressure from the Senate crossbench to increase donation transparency.

The new laws passed with support of Laborrequire entities spending more than $250,000 on electoral expenditure in a year to register as “significant third parties” and subject them to more rigorous reporting requirements.

They have been criticised by advocacy groups, charities, the Greens and members of the crossbench for stifling free speech.

Independent parliamentarians Zali Steggall and Helen Haines lambasted the government for its hypocrisy, saying the major parties continuously voted down crossbench pushes for a more transparent disclosure regime.

Ms Steggall, who represented the Sydney electorate of Warringah, called on the government to legislate a more rigid regime if it was serious about transparency.

Candidates are not required to disclose donations until after elections and major parties don’t need to show how much they spent in each electorate.

Ms Steggall wants real-time reporting and a breakdown of where the money is being spent.

“If we are going to talk about transparency then be fair dinkum but that is not what this legislation is about,” she told AAP.

Ms Haines, who represents the northern Victorian seat of Indi, already discloses donations well beyond the required threshold and reiterated Ms Steggall’s call for greater transparency legislation.

“If the government was serious about donations reform, there are many other measures that could be taken to level the playing field and be upfront with the public,” she said.

A spate of independents are challenging moderate Liberals in Sydney and Melbourne, angry over a lack of action on climate change and the government dragging its feet on a federal corruption watchdog.

Mr Morton took aim at the grassroots “Voices of” campaigns and Simon Holmes a Court’s Climate 200 fund, which back independents running on a pro-climate platform.

But Ms Steggall accused Mr Morton of having double standards, saying he had no problem with Clive Palmer spending $80 million which effectively helped the coalition at the last election.

“We need to legislate this,” she said.

“It’s hypocritical to criticise (independents) when we don’t know where (the major parties) are getting their money from or where it is being spent.”