Fate of $500k in developer donations decided

THE Queensland Electoral Commissioner has ruled that about $500,000 in developer donations collected by the LNP in the lead-up to last month's federal election can be returned to donors and not handed to the state.

Commissioner Pat Vidgen posted his reasons on the ECQ website today, revealing he has decided to "exercise the statutory discretion that exists under sections 276 and 308 of the Electoral Act 1992 to not recover amounts payable as a debt due to the State from political parties, subject to the Commissioner being satisfied that specified conditions have been met."

"This decision is based on careful consideration of the legal implications of the HCA's decision, the statutory powers and responsibilities of the Electoral Commission of Queensland under its enabling legislation, and public interest considerations related to the potential courses of action available on this matter."

Mr Vidgen said the public interest considerations taken into account included that the ECQ issued advice prior to the commencement of the Commonwealth laws on how parties could use the loophole before it was ruled invalid by the High Court and that "parties acted in good faith and in accordance with ECQ advice, and the receipt of unlawful donations arose from a genuine understanding that the receipt of the donations was lawful at that time.

He also believed recovery action "may jeopardise voluntary compliance and co-operation by stakeholders in the future".