Hong Kong needs a comprehensive registration system for political parties and increased public funding for party development to boost transparency, a policy think-tank proposed yesterday. In what it described as the first comprehensive study of the development of political parties in Hong Kong, Civic Exchange also said there was no need to introduce a political party ordinance as the existing regulatory framework was sufficient. Political parties are now either registered as companies under the Company Ordinance or as societies under the Society Ordinance. Critics have expressed concern over their lack of legal status as political groups and have called for formal recognition through legislation. But Richard Cullen, a professor at Australia's Monash University who is conducting research for Civic Exchange, said political parties could develop healthily in Hong Kong if the present system was modified. 'Hong Kong has a lot of good election laws and we will be better off working with what we have rather than encountering uncertainties,' he said. His report, which compared Hong Kong's system with Australia's, recommended the introduction of a voluntary registration system for political parties. Parties would provide detailed and publicly available reports showing where their resources come from and the identities of their donors. He said this would encourage improved transparency and accountability. He said the registration process - along with annual audits of parties by the Electoral Affairs Commission - would also gives parties much-needed public recognition as political groups. Professor Cullen proposed increasing the amount of public funding available to parties. 'When the government provides more material support to parties, they do not always have to reflect the interests of their donors. This would make them more responsive to the public interest,' said Civic Exchange head Christine Loh Kung-wai. At present, the Hong Kong government provides financial support to parties through a complicated system which amounts to about $10 for every vote they receive in elections, with a cap at a certain amount.