Premier Jay Weatherill’s plan to change election funding in South Australia is a really bad idea. Here’s 3 reasons why:
1. Introduction of a state-controlled register of political donations
The proposed scheme includes a compulsory donor register for all gifts over $5000. The names of businesses and individuals, and the party or candidate they donated too, will go on the register. The danger is that the register could be used by governments to punish those ideologically opposed to them.
2. The existing regime is one of the best in Australia
South Australia currently enjoys no limitations on campaign advertising or donations at the state level. Most of the other states and territories have varying degrees of legislation that restrict both your ability to donate and the amount a candidate can advertise. SA should embrace its freedoms and refuse to follow the same restrictive policies that afflict the rest of Australia.
3. Taxpayer money will be doled out to the major parties
Up to $2.1 million of taxpayer money will be made available to every political party under the new scheme. If a party receives the political welfare, they cannot spend more than $4 million on campaigning, even if they get extra donations from private donors that would allow them to do so. The campaign handouts will only be available to parties that achieve a threshold of 4% of the primary vote. This aspect of the proposal works to systematically lock out smaller parties and independents.
These changes won’t strengthen democracy, they’ll weaken it. Individuals donate money to candidates because they agree with their ideas and policies. Political parties that can’t achieve that kind of support shouldn’t be able to then turn around and get their hands on over $2 million in taxpayers’ money.
Premier Weatherill’s plans are a limitation on South Australian democracy. The government should abandon this damaging proposal.