The Electoral Commission is currently holding hearings into the allocation of election funding and free television time - and it seems to have become a source of political contention, with Labour demanding a bigger share to match its dominance of the polls, and ACT accusing the government of doing all it can to control our TV. But the problem isn't with the government, but with the rules laid out for the process. According to s75(2) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, the commission can only consider:
- Party and electorate vote at the previous general election; and
- Votes at any by-election held since the previous general election; and
- The number of MPs before the dissolution of Parliament; and
- any relationships that exist between political parties; and
- any other indications of public support such as the results of public opinion polls and the number [of] party members; and
- the need to provide a fair opportunity for each eligible political party to convey its policies to the public by broadcasting election programmes on television.
According to their press release on the issue, they cannot consider other matters.
Under these criteria, there is no question that Labour should receive a larger share than National. They got twice its vote at the last election, and have consistently outpolled it by a wide margin ever since. The same rules that allow National to claim more money and time than (say) ACT also allow Labour to claim more than National. If National now considers that arrangement unfair, maybe thry should have thought of that before they colluded with Labour to establish those rules (and stack them against small parties) before the 1996 election?
But while its amusing seeing National hoist by its own petard in this way, it's not exactly good for our democracy. They are the core of any alternative government, and its important that that alternative is able to be properly presented to the electorate. So I'd support giving them more money than they may strictly be entitled to, simply to ensure that the government faces a proper challenge come election time.