Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Challenging the broadcasting allocation

The Alliance (remember them?) has filed papers in the High Court challenging the Electoral Commission's broadcasting allocation. Their basic argument is that the allocation unjustifiably favours larger parties, while denying small parties what is pretty much their sole opportunity to register in the public consciousness. And I agree. Unfortunately, the problem doesn't stem from the Electoral Commission, but from the law itself. In allocating funding, the Electoral Commission is required to have regard to:

(a) The number of persons who voted at the immediately preceding general election for that party and for candidates belonging to that political party; and
(b) The number of persons who voted at any by-election held since the immediately preceding general election for any candidate belonging to that political party; and
(c) the number of members of Parliament who were members of that political party immediately before the dissolution or expiration of Parliament; and
(d) Any relationships that exist between a political party and any other political party; and
(e) Any other indications of public support for that political party such as the results of public opinion polls and the number of persons who are members of that political party; and
(f) The need to provide a fair opportunity for each political party to which subsection (1) of this section applies to convey its policies to the public by the broadcasting of election programmes on television.
While subclause (f) provides some balance, the basic thrust of the law is "larger parties get more money". It's unjust, its inequitable, it denies democratic choice, and it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy which preserves the status quo. But the system was set up by - you guessed it - large parties interested in preserving their monopoly on power, so did we really expect any different?

As I have said before, the law desperately needs to be changed to ensure that it is the voters who decide electoral outcomes, not the handicappers at the Electoral Commission. But that's about as likely as MPs voting themselves a pay cut.

As for the Alliance, I think their challenge is doomed to failure. But it might get them some publicity, which is probably the point of the exercise.