The NSW trade union movement today begins a High Court challenge to the O’Farrell Government’s electoral donation laws, arguing they breach the freedom of political communication and association implied in the NSW and Commonwealth constitutions.

The electoral laws passed by the NSW parliament last year hinder working people in expressing their political views by:

  • Banning peak councils such as Unions NSW from levying its affiliates to run movement-wide election campaigns (such as the highly successful Your Rights at Work campaign);
  • Combining the caps on election spending for political parties and affiliated unions;
  • Banning trade unions from paying affiliation fees to political parties

In a concerted push, every conservative government in the country (Including the Abbott Coalition Government) will oppose the Unions NSW application.

NSW Secretary, Mark Lennon said the High Court action would serve as a crucial test case on the basic concept of freedom of political expression.

“Working people have always pooled resources to express themselves politically. The point of our case is to make sure that can continue and we have robust political representation in this country.

“The fact each conservative government has taken the unprecedented step of intervening in this case shows there is a clear agenda to silence the political voice of working people, not just in NSW but across the country.

“Any system that only allows individuals to make political donations will inevitably favour parties sponsored by the wealthy.

“Political participation comes in different forms, both individual and collective. That needs to be respected and protected.”

United Services Union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Transport Workers Union, the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association and the Teachers Federation are supporting the High Court application.

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