Following the leaking of the government's proposals for election funding reform, the Greens have weighed in with their own policy [PDF]. As expected, there's a lot similarity with the government's proposals, but generally they take a much tougher line. There's also some similarities with the proposals of the Coalition for Open Government.
The first proposal is for a public inquiry or citizens' jury to review the whole system of election finance laws and how they are enforced, as well as the desirability of public funding. The law hasn't been fully reviewed for at least 15 years, if not longer, and in light of the increasing influence of money (or at least attempts by the rich for it to have a greater influence) a comprehensive review seems justified. In the meantime, they propose a package of measures to introduce greater transparency and plug the most obvious gaps exposed in recent years. These include lowering the declaration threshold to $1,000, a ban on foreign donations, weekly disclosure of funding in the lead-up to the election, and a $35,000 annual donation limit. The latter is intended to encourage parties to broaden their base, rather than relying on a narrow clique of rich donors who consequently have disproportionate influence over policy formation.
On overall spending, they support keeping the existing spending caps but extending them out to the beginning of election year, on the basis that election campaigns are now beginning earlier and earlier in a deliberate attempt to avoid restrictions (National began its 2005 campaign in January and spent up large for that very reason). They also support retaining the existing broadcasting rules, at least for the time being. On third-party campaigning, their proposals are similar to the government's: declaration and a $50,000 cap. Though interestingly, they make no mention of an exemption for communications with members (something I think is a vital safeguard for free speech, and which promotes exactly the sort of participation the Greens want to see). Finally, they propose removing party appointees from the Electoral Commission (which allocates broadcast funding) and Representation Commission (which sets electoral boundaries).
It's a solid set of proposals, and a useful contribution to the debate. I think the Greens are right to call for a full review and public enquiry, and on very solid ground on transparency and the removal of party appointees from electoral bodies. But the cynic in me doubts they'll get those bits past the government, unless there is overwhelming public demand.
Meanwhile, I now await with bated breath National's proposals for reform. Do they actually have any, or are they simply committed to protecting the status quo they so obviously abused last time?