State funding of political parties

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key says he is “not completely closed” to the prospect of using more public funding to run political parties and their campaigns – an apparent softening of National’s vehement opposition to such suggestions in the past.

The question of public funding of parties is one of the central issues of a review of electoral finance law to find a replacement to the now repealed Electoral Finance Act.

First of all, I would not read too much into this. As state funding is within the terms of consultation on electoral financing, he is not ruling it out in advance. This is a good thing as it means the consultation is not a sham.

But it should ring some small warning bells. If you are oppossed to further state funding of parties, then don’t rely on MPs to be against it. Have you say. I will blog next week some further encouragement on this.

Currently, the only state funding for party campaigns is about $3 million in broadcasting allocation to registered parties for election advertising on television and radio.

That is the only direct funding. But parties also gain considerable indirect benefits from being in Parliament – they gain budgets, staff, travel for MPs etc etc. Now this is for parliamentary purposes and I do not advocate it should be reduced. But I think one should recognise there is a political benefit also from this funding. Bryce Edwards will comment no doubt in more detail on this.

If there is a case for taxpayer funding, my inclinations are that it should go to the small parties not in Parliament, to give them an opportunity to have their voices heard at election time. I don’t see a case for giving more money to parliamentary parties that already have a huge advantage over parties not in Parliament.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said his party supported at least partial public funding and limits on how much one donor could donate to ensure parties were not dependent on a few wealthy donors.

This excuse holds little sway with me. So long as one has transparency, you can see if a party is dependent on a few wealthy donors and voters can judge that party accordingly. What Noram advocates will actually led to a US style dirty money system where donation limits leads to less transparency as donations go into third parties, or major donors become recruiters of other donors instead. Transparency and simplicity are far preferable that the US system of dirty money that Norman advocates (even if he doesn’t realise that is what he advocates).

It said supporters believed it would limit “actual or perceived corruption or inappropriate influence” because parties would not be as dependent on private donors. It would also help ensure an even playing field for parties whose supporters were not wealthy.

Why stop at an even playing field on wealth. How about time? It is unfair that some parties have supporters who are too busy to volunteer at much time. We shoud have the state force everyone to volunteer the same amount of time to a party to keep it equal.

Also it is unfair some parties have more members than other parties. Who should Labour with 8,000 members get less money than National with close to 40,000?

Many countries where parties do get money from the taxpayer have tighter restrictions on donations, including limiting the amount one person can give and prohibiting donations from corporations and trade unions.

The problem with this, is that most union support is in staff time – not money. During an election campaign hundreds of union staff are unofficially given time off to campaign for Labour and sometimes the Greens. They put up hoardings, supply union vehicles, deliver, door knock etc.

Comments (20)

Login to comment or vote

Add a Comment