Christmas came early for constitutional law nerds when
the High Court declared NSW political donor restriction laws
invalid as they infringed the implied freedom of political
communication. This now means that companies and other associations
will again be able to make political donations in NSW (unless you
belong to the liquor, gaming, tobacco or property development
industries which remain banned).
In 2012 NSW controversially amended electoral laws prohibiting
donations to political parties, members, groups, candidates or
third party campaigners by anyone except individuals on the
electoral roll. The purpose of the law was to reduce any corrupt
influence on the political process in NSW. It was an understandable
aim with a very wide-reaching effect, cutting a substantial amount
of funding from parties as corporations and unions were suddenly
left out of the picture. As you can imagine the laws didn't go
down too well. Unions NSW challenged the State of NSW, ending up in
the High Court.
There isn't an express right to free speech in the
Australian Constitution, however the High Court has said that an
implied freedom of political communication exists. What that means
is that if a law burdens the implied freedom in a way which is not
proportionate to a legitimate purpose, it is invalid.
In the Unions case the question was whether the NSW law was
proportionate to serving the end of preventing undue influence and
corruption in the political process. The Court held that a
prohibition based solely on the sources of donations did not have
enough of a connection to the aim of preventing corruption.
The Court also found that a restriction on the amount that
political parties may spend on electoral communication was
The implied freedom of political communication is the flavour of
the year, and this decision further reinforces that it's a
freedom the Courts are taking seriously.
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On September 30, 2016, the Federal Acquisition Regulation Councils issued 10 FAR amendments on a broad range of topics. One rule imposes new risks for contractors with delinquent taxes or felony convictions.
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