As unions prepare to tackle the NSW Government’s unfair electoral funding laws in the High Court, a Government Information Public Access application reveals the Berejiklian Government wanted to go much further, banning unions, charities, churches and environmental activists from advocating a vote for a specific party or even donating to them.

The Unions NSW High Court challenge begins on Wednesday. It seeks to overturn laws that can see trade unionists and other ‘third parties’ jailed up to ten years if they share the costs of television advertising, publish logos on joint campaign material or share research and polling data.

The laws more than halve the amount unions can spend on election campaigns to only $500,000, while allowing political parties to spend up to $11 million.

A GIPA application by Unions NSW has uncovered an email sent within the office of Special Minister of State, Anthony Roberts, revealing plans to go much further including:

  • Banning trade unions and third parties from advocating a vote for a certain political party;
  • Banning trade unions and third parties from donating to political parties;
  • Forcing third party campaigners to register the aim of their campaign six months out from an election,and requiring they not deviate from it;
  • Reducing the expenditure cap even further, to $300,000.

The email, which can be read here, also reveals the expert panel upon which the Government relied to draft the laws has no expertise in political campaigning, but can be “used as justification for further restrictions to third party campaigners.”

Unions NSW Secretary, Mark Morey, said it was now clear that the Government’s electoral funding laws were drafted in bad faith.

“The NSW Government is abusing the legal system. It is threatening to throw its opponents in jail for campaigning against it. Under the Liberal Party’s laws, trade unionists or environmental protesters will be treated as criminals if they work together on a campaign flyer or share some polling.

“The Liberals want to rig the system. Under their system they can spend 20 times more than any other organisation getting their message across. That’s before you include the firehose of government advertising. They spent $84 million of public money promoting themselves in 2017.

“These draconian laws are bad enough. But our GIPA application shows they want to ban us campaigning entirely. The Liberals have studied how trade unions operate and simply made it illegal. What’s next, banning political opposition entirely?

“If we reran the electricity privatisation campaign from the last election, we would go to jail. 

“Working people have always pooled their resources to run election campaigns and we believe we have a constitutional right to continue doing so.” 

The Unions NSW court action argues the laws infringe the implied freedom of communication in the Commonwealth Constitution.

The action is supported by the ETU, USU, Teachers Federation, HSU, PSA, NSWNMA and a dozen other unions.


Further comment: Mark Morey 0425 231 812

Further info: Nick Lucchinelli 0422 229 032

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