South West Coast independent candidate Michael McCluskey is attempting to take Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal over "unfair" campaign finance rules.
Mr McCluskey lodged a submission with VCAT on November 22 that argues against the rules capping donations to political candidates and lists Mr Andrews as the respondent.
The Andrews government reformed campaign finance rules in 2018, tightening the guidelines for disclosing the identity of donors and limiting individual donations to $4320 per person.
Mr McCluskey said the new rules were largely positive, but they left a number of loopholes that gave incumbents and the major parties a structural advantage. "The major parties have exemptions that give them huge war chests," he said.
One important rule is every candidate who received at least four per cent of the vote in the previous election receives $6.33 for every lower house vote it got, which gives incumbents and repeat candidates a major head start in their next campaign.
"People should get equal opportunity to promote their perspectives. It should be equal funding across all candidates," Mr McCluskey said. "I think they need to scrap the $6 per vote, it should be X dollars per candidate as long as they get above the 4 per cent yardstick."
Mr McCluskey said Labor had also essentially exempted itself and the Liberal party from the $4320 cap, because they have multi-million dollar organisations called "nominated entities" that can funnel unlimited funds into their respective campaigns.
Labor's nominated entity, Labor Services and Holdings, donated $3.1 million to the Victorian ALP in 2018, while the Liberal entity, the Cormack Foundation, plunged $2.5m into the state Liberal Party. While donations to the nominated entities come under the same $4320 cap as everybody else, the organisations already have millions of dollars saved away, meaning other political parties don't stand a chance of building the same funding advantage.
In his VCAT application Mr McCluskey invokes the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and alleged the government was "authorising or assisting discrimination" in its rules.
"Premier has legislated that people running as independents at state election have a cap on single political donations they can receive however if a candidate has political affiliation with Labor or Liberal party then the cap doesn't apply through exemptions granted to nominated entities associated with the parties. Even if I create a new party my nominated entity will have to abide by a cap that Labor or Liberals get exemption from," Mr McCluskey wrote in the application.
He said the worst thing about the rules was their potential to keep "fresh, young voices" out of parliament. "This is about all candidates getting equal exposure, and helping young people who have none of those structural advantages to get an equal say," he said.
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