Unions NSW to fight Bere­jik­lian gov­ern­ment cam­paign rules in high court

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines / News -

Unions New South Wales has de­clared it will take the state gov­ern­ment to the high court to chal­lenge what it claims are “out­ra­geous” elec­toral fund­ing laws.

The peak body said the ac­tion would ar­gue leg­is­la­tion passed in May breached the “con­sti­tu­tional right to po­lit­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion” by threat­en­ing to jail union mem­bers who en­gaged in joint elec­tion cam­paigns.

The NSW Nurses and Mid­wives As­so­ci­a­tion, Elec­tri­cal Trades Union, NSW Teach­ers Fed­er­a­tion, United Ser­vices Union and Health Ser­vices Union have joined the ap­pli­ca­tion to the court.

The sec­re­tary of Unions NSW, Mark Morey, said he was con­cerned trade union­ists could face se­ri­ous con­se­quences for ac­tiv­i­ties such as shar­ing the costs of air­ing elec­tion-re­lated tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tis­ing or pub­lish­ing their lo­gos on joint cam­paign ma­te­rial, con­sid­ered “per­fectly le­gal” at the last two elec­tions.

Morey had in­di­cated in May that le­gal ac­tion would be taken when state par­lia­ment also capped elec­toral ex­pen­di­ture from third-party cam­paign­ers in­clud­ing unions, at $500,000 – less than half of the ex­ist­ing cap.

When the elec­toral fund­ing bill was passed the pre­mier, Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian, said the re­forms would “drive greater in­tegrity, trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity”.

She said the re­forms, which ap­ply to the next NSW elec­tion in March 2019, in­tro­duce im­por­tant changes to re­duce the risk of cor­rup­tion and un­due in­flu­ence, and pro­mote com­pli­ance.

Pho­to­graph: Dan Peled/AAP

La­bor vol­un­teers give out how-to-vote cards.Union mem­bers could be jailed for shar­ingthe costs of cam­paign ma­te­ri­als un­der newNSW laws.

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