Thursday, April 29, 2010

Election funding: The bill

Today the government introduced its Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill, designed to implement its response to their election finance review. The review basically came up with "reform" that isn't - no tighter donation disclosure requirements, no public funding, and no spending limits on parallel campaigns. Its "reform" in the interests of political parties (and rich political parties at that), not the public.

One thing I hadn't noticed is that the government is effectively raising campaign spending limits by stealth. These apply within the regulated period - which used to be the three months before election day. In an effort to stop this being retrospective, the bill has the regulated period start on the day after the day on which the election is called, unless that would be longer than three months. In practice, elections are announced around eight weeks in advance, so the practical effect of the change will mean that the money which used to have to last 12 weeks will now only have to last 8. This amounts to an effective 50% increase in the spending cap. Meanwhile, parties will be free to (like Brash) spend millions outside the cap in election year - turning elections into a contest of money rather than votes. That's not democracy - its plutocracy.

There's also a welcome change: everyone will now be able to advance-vote, as of right, without having to make a statutory declaration on why they need to. This makes it significantly easier to vote, and should boost turnout. It enhances our democracy. Now, if only we could get a finance regime which does the same.