29 January 2019

The High Court has upheld the union movement’s challenge to NSW’s electoral spending laws, which privileged political parties by tightening a cap on spending by community organisations. The decision hinged on NSW’s failure to explain why it thought $500,000 was an appropriate cap — cynics might suggest the fact that bosses’ groups spent just under $500,000 at the last election had something to do with it. The NSW Liberals have form; their 2013 law limited spending by industrial organisations that were affiliated to a political party. When their lawyer claimed “it is not as though … we have simply targeted, sotto voce, the ALP”, Justice Hayne demanded, “Well, your side does not point to any other party to which this would apply? … Are we to ignore 100 years of history in this country…? Are we to shut our eyes to what has been observed over the last decades? … Apparently so.” That law was also struck down for illegally restricting freedom of political speech.