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Elections and voting

South Australian politicians change the electoral rules in their favour

adelaideparliamentSometime later this week the South Australian parliament will rig its electoral system in favour of established parties.

The idea is to “prevent virtual unknown” candidates from taking a seat by stopping candidates from benefiting from preference distribution unless they have 2.5 per cent of the primary vote. InDaily has the details here. Of course the changes are being Continue Reading →

Leyonhjelm: end public funding of electoral campaigns

LDP Senator-elect David Leyonhjelm has a great piece in today’s Australian Financial Review, where he identifies the heart of the public funding problem:

The underlying problem is that governments intrude too much into our lives. There would be less need to lobby a government that did less. As it stands, business success can often depend on favourable ministerial decisions, and there is no shortage of people keen to enlist the government’s support to impose their views on the rest of us.

A better option would be to Continue Reading →

Here’s where the Left goes wrong on public funding for political parties


The Left gets political party public funding all wrong. Dishing out millions in taxpayer money to candidates is based on the idea that parties shouldn’t be seeking private donations. The Australian‘s resident psephologist Peter Brent explains:

This system has been in place since 1984 and was supposed to lessen parties’ reliance on business and union donations. It hasn’t turned out that way because Continue Reading →

Hide the dissatisfaction

BallotIn the Australian today, the new Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm makes his argument against amending electoral law in response to his successful senate bid:

Attacking our party because of its name, amending the rules so we cannot keep our name, or changing the system of voting so that minor parties cannot win seats, does not strike me as a formula for goodwill.

Since the election there has been a bipartisan agreement that the electoral system needs to be changed to prevent similar results in the future.

This is pretty shameless; a transparent attempt to change the system to favour major parties.

It’s only been a few months since we last saw such shamelessness, when in June the major parties tried to enrich themselves at our expense. Before that, in March, the major parties decided to double the fees to nominate for the election.

Yes, some senators have been elected with shockingly small voter support. Take Ricky Muir, from the Australian Motoring Enthusiastic Party in Victoria. You can understand at first why this might seem a bit problematic – he received only seventeen thousand first preference votes, 0.51 per cent of the total.

But that misses the point. The 2013 federal election was remarkable. Almost a quarter of Australian voters chose not to vote for any one of the major parties – including the Greens – in the Senate.

Virtually by definition, minor parties are small, and there are lots of them. With such a high non-major vote, and with no dominant minor party, obviously that dissatisfaction was going to spill to some unknown and obscure candidate.

Reforming the electoral system to hide this clear expression of dissatisfaction with the major parties would be deceitful and undemocratic.

In other words, it would be just the sort of naked self-interest that has sent voters to minor parties in the first place.

3 reasons why SA’s political funding changes are a bad idea

jay weatherillPremier 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.

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