Of aliens, money and politics: Should foreign political donations be banned

Electoral Regulation Research Network Seminar

Wednesday 16 August

ANU College of Law


  • Associate Professor Joo-Cheong Tham

About the Seminar:

Recent controversies in Australia have prompted a push to ban foreign political donations. The presentation cautions against this by casting doubt on the main rationale for such a ban - that ‘foreigners’ are not members of the nation’s political community, and therefore are not entitled to influence its political process, including through political donations. It will also be argued that the ‘foreignness’ of corporate political donations does not pose any additional danger to democracy unless the corporation is an agent for a foreign government. While there is just cause for banning political donations from foreign governments and those being sourced from overseas, any further measures in relation to ‘foreign’ political donations should be approached cautiously. Rather than focus on the ‘foreignness’ of the political donations, the underlying risks stem more from the ‘corporateness’ of these donations, pointing to general measures to deal with large political donations rather than specific regulation of ‘foreign’ political donations. This presentation is based on a forthcoming article in King’s Law Journal.

The Speaker:

Joo-Cheong Tham is an Associate Professor at Melbourne Law School. His research spans the fields of labour law and public law with his key research areas, the regulation of precarious work and political finance law. He is the author of Money and Politics: The Democracy We Can’t Afford (2010, UNSW Press) and has written key reports for the New South Wales Electoral Commission on the regulation of political finance and lobbying. Joo-Cheong regularly engages in public debate through opinion pieces, public lectures and evidence to parliamentary inquiries.