Liberal and Labor get more cash for less democracy

Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury has condemned the bi-partisan position of Liberal and Labor members of the Select Committee on the Review of the Electoral Act to recommend their parties receive a financial windfall at the expense of the ACT’s democracy.

“The decision to increase the size of the ACT Assembly to five electorates of five members advantages the big parties from the outset, making it even harder for independents and smaller parties to gain representation.

“More astonishing, however, is the Committee’s decision to increase public funding from $2 per vote to $8 per vote with no additional measures to restrict expenditure or cap donations. This amounts to a net gain for political parties, and cannot be described as anything other than an unprecedented and unjustifiable act of self-interest.

“While the Greens support public funding of elections to reduce undue or corrupt influence, the public funding must serve as a replacement to large donations - not be in addition to them.

“The decision to increase public funding without reigning in party expenditure or restricting individual donations is ludicrous. It’s unconscionable to ask ACT taxpayers to cough up for $1 million dollar election campaigns whilst the old parties tighten their grip around Canberra’s democracy. 

“Further, as a result of the High Court ruling on electoral laws in NSW, it appears likely that corporations will be able to become political donors once again. Despite this, the Labor and Liberal parties refuse to lower the cap on donations to protect our democracy from undue or corrupt political influence.

“Instead, the Committee has recommended that the $10,000 cap on donations be debated in the Assembly, leaving the door open for it to be raised or removed completely.

“I support the Committee’s decision to reduce the per candidate expenditure cap from $60,000 to $40,000. However, a candidate cap has limited utility when bigger parties can reap the benefits of pooling candidate funding to run big campaigns, drowning out independents and smaller parties.  

“Until we see real limits on campaign expenditure and donations, it is untenable to ask members of our community to fork out for election campaign costs. 

“Public funding of elections should deliver democratic benefits to the community, not just more cash to political parties.” Mr Rattenbury concluded.

Mr Rattenbury’s dissenting comments can be found in the Committee Report here.