Elections and voting

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

In 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.


Little black list

namesDemocratic participation is under fire again, with calls to reform the Australian Electoral Commission’s guidelines to create new registers of donors to political parties:

‘Can a politician ignore the message of a table of executives from a company that has just paid his party tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars? Maybe they can, but the community should know about it and have the right to judge for itself.

This is direct threat to freedom of speech and freedom of association. Lists of donors can all too easily be used to punish those who supported the other side. Earlier this year in the US  it was discovered that donors to the Republican party were being deliberately targeted by the IRS. Let’s make sure that the same lists that tracked down the Republicans don’t become the norm in Australia.


Local government referendum increasingly unlikely

The probability of the local government referendum occurring, let alone succeeding, is becoming increasingly unlikely.

Tony Abbott has today stated that people should vote ‘no’ if they have concerns about the referendum, and Christopher Pyne has called for the government to “pull the referendum” altogether.

You can read about the IPA’s arguments against the referendum here.


Queensland moves to strengthen democracy

democracySome good news coming out of Queensland – the state is set to scrap political donation caps:

Political donation caps will be scrapped as part of a raft of electoral reforms set by the Queensland government.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie announced the reforms after the release earlier this year of a green paper looking at the Electoral Act.

Compulsory voting will stay, but the Liberal National Party government has decided to remove restrictions on “who”, “how” and “how much” people can donate.

The proposal winds back the undemocratic changes made to the Sunshine State’s electoral laws two years ago, when the Bligh Labor government instituted caps for political donations ($5000 for donations to parties; $2000 for donations to candidates per donor).

The new changes also include halving taxpayer funding for political parties.

While it’s disappointing the legislation won’t go further by removing all barriers to political donations (in fact some have been added) the changes are an encouraging step in the right direction. They will help to open up the political process and allow a wider range of choices to those who wish to participate actively in democracy.


Cory Bernardi says ‘Vote No’

This great short video from South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi explains exactly why the local government referendum should be rejected:

Senator Bernardi is another Liberal speaking out against the referendum despite the Coalition’s official position to support the change to the constitution. The fact that so many Liberals are doing so this close to a federal election demonstrates the depth of concern in the parliamentary party about their official position.


Dean Smith slams local government referendum

Watch this terrific speech from Western Australian Senator Dean Smith today on why the local government referendum is so dangerous and must be rejected:

Many of Senator Smith’s colleagues share his views – but not all of them have said so publicly, because the Coalition has officially resolved to support the referendum. Full credit to Senator Smith for having the courage of his convictions.


Abetz on equal funding for the local government referendum

This is encouraging. Liberal Senate Leader Eric Abetz demands equal funding for both sides in the local government referendum in a speech in the Senate this afternoon:

This follows Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s letter to Julia Gillard demanding equal funding, revealed exclusively on FreedomWatch this morning.

Of course, the IPA would much prefer that the Coalition opposed the referendum entirely. But it is welcome that they are fighting to ensure the referendum is conducted on an equal footing.

If the Gillard government persists with the unequal funding, the Coalition should oppose the referendum as a matter of principle. A change to the constitution should not be rammed through in an illegitimate process.


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