Thursday, February 20, 2020

Time for public funding of our political parties

The investigation of two of the five parties in Parliament for fraud around their election donations has pushed the issue of party funding back into the spotlight. And while there are obvious things we can do to tighten up the donations regime - a much lower declaration threshold, realtime disclosure of all donations, statutory intrusive audits to make sure the rules are complied with - none of these address the obvious problem: that there is money in our political system. And where there is money, there is influence and corruption. Regulation might help things a little, but fundamentally if we want clean politics, we need to take the money out. Which means publicly-funding our parties rather than forcing them to rely on bribes from millionaires and shady foreign-linked businessmen.

Cat MacLennan, pointing out that public funding is common overseas. 58% of countries, including Canada, Sweden, Germany, and the Netherlands, provide direct funding to political parties. These are countries which we think of as democratic leading lights, and which don't have a problem with corruption. So that seems worth emulating. Clint Smith also address the issue in Stuff, and makes the simple point:

If we don't want anonymous wealthy people trying to buy our democracy, maybe we should pay for it ourselves.

And that's really what it comes down to, isn't it? Should politicians work for voters, or donors? I think almost all of us prefer the former, and that means gritting our teeth, putting aside our justified dislike of politicians, and giving them public money to work on the public's behalf. Because our democracy is worth it.

But there's also the corollary: if politicians defend the current system, or drag their feet on making these changes, then its clear that they think they should be working for donors, not us. And we should vote them out.