The NSW Society of Labor Lawyers today welcomed the High Court’s decision holding parts of the O’Farrell government’s campaign finance laws unconstitutional.
The Court unanimously held that both provisions challenged by Unions NSW and several individual unions were invalid because they breached the implied freedom of political communication guaranteed by the Commonwealth Constitution.
If upheld, the laws would have prohibited all political donations not made by individual voters, banned unions from paying affiliation fees to the Labor Party, and disadvantaged unions by counting their campaign spending together with the Labor Party’s in the calculation of spending caps.“This is an important victory for the democratic process in NSW”, said NSW Society of Labor Lawyers President Hannah Quadrio.
“The state government’s laws imposed unprecedented restrictions on the ability of trade unions and other organisations to participate in political debate. Anyone who cares about the vitality of our democracy, no matter their political views, should be pleased by this outcome.”“The Constitution doesn’t ban restrictions on free speech which have a legitimate purpose within our democratic system.
In this case, the Court was unable to find any connection between the onerous restrictions the O’Farrell legislation imposed, and any such legitimate purpose,” Ms Quadrio said
“We hope that the state government will rethink its approach and develop electoral laws which protect the interests of all sides of the political debate. Governments should never legislate to silence their opponents,” Ms Quadrio said.
Media Contact: Hannah Quadrio – 0405 758 053