Developer Donation Update

The High Court’s Spence v State of Queensland decision, contains two results with implications for property industry participants:

1. That the Queensland legislation banning political donations from property developers and their associates is constitutionally valid, and
2. A section of new Commonwealth legislation aimed at preventing state-based campaign donation restrictions from impacting on federal election contributions is invalid.

As a result of this decision, the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) has issued fresh advice to property developers, outlining that it is unlawful for prohibited donors and their associates to make political donations to political parties or state or local candidates.

Contrary to ECQ’s previous advice, these laws now apply regardless of whether the gift is identified as being for a State or Federal purpose.

Individuals or entities that may have made an electoral gift for a federal purpose during the last few months, when the Commonwealth legislation was considered valid, are advised to contact the recipient of the donation if they believe they may now be a prohibited donor.

The Property Council has been a vocal opponent of Queensland Government’s Prohibited Donor Scheme on the basis that it singles out the property sector for inequitable treatment under electoral laws, and unduly brands the industry as a corruption risk.

Since the passage of the Bill, the Property Council has engaged with the ECQ to seek further clarity around who is a prohibited donor, and what is a prohibited donation. ECQ have released a number of factsheets, and an FAQ page.