Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given his support for banning foreign political donations, as the debate over money in politics continues to rage on.
His predecessor, Tony Abbott, has also come out in support of moves to place tighter restrictions on political donations. Australia's two most recent PMs are in rare agreement on the issue, which has dominated the news for a fortnight since Labor senator Sam Dastyari was revealed to have allowed a Chinese company to pay a $1670 travel bill he had incurred. Dastyari was forced to resign from Labor's frontbench, but the conversation has now moved to how Australia should regulate and police political donations.
"I have argued that ideally donations to political parties should be limited to people who are on the electoral roll, voters. So you would exclude not simply foreigners but you would exclude corporations and you'd exclude trade unions," Turnbull said on Thursday from Laos.
"Ideally I would like – if we can manage it – for financial participation in the election process to be limited to those people who can vote. That's where we should get to, but we do have big legal issues and indeed some constitutional issues."
On Friday it was reported by the Daily Telegraph that the same company that paid Dastyari's bill, Top Education, also donated $65,000 to the Liberal Party before the then-Education Minister Christopher Pyne continued a streamlined visa program which Top Education had campaigned for. Appearing on Today on Friday, Pyne defended the circumstances.
Speaking to Fairfax Media, Abbott said he supported similar measures to the ones outlined by Turnbull.
"We need to look long and hard at restricting donations to real people on the electoral roll. To that end, there should be no union donations, company donations or foreign donations, " Abbott said.
"Obviously we don't want influence buying, we don't want subversion of our system. The best way to ensure the system is straight and clean is full transparency. The best way to have transparency is to have real-time disclosure, or near-to-real-time disclosure."