Keeping Political Parties away from Public Money

…efforts to strengthen the integrity of electoral donations and to reform public funding of political campaigns have become a cash grab by the major parties.[1]

Soon after the Second World War began in 1939, Hitler and Stalin began to negotiate over  how to divide up Poland. Hitler had invaded Poland from the West, and Stalin had taken his opportunity to get a share of the action, invading Poland from the East. To the dictatorial and ruthless victors went the spoils of this proud but defeated and prostrate nation, which for the duration of the war essentially ceased to exist.

Hitler and Stalin got to draw the lines on the maps as to who got what, at least until the Germans invaded Russia nearly two years later.

Why is this relevant to Australia, today?

Last week witnessed the wholly unedifying spectacle of the Labor Party nearly reaching agreement with the Liberals, over electoral funding that would have meant that the two parties would be able to “share” around $40-50 million over three years. Tony Abbott and his Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, were in favour of this division of public money.

This is despite the fact that Tony Abbott recently declared there to be a “budget emergency,” whilst Hockey will presumably be charged with the task of getting the budget back into the black, should the Liberals win office later this year. It was Hockey who recently lamented the “entitlement mentality” of the Western mind. Would $40-50 million make any difference to your task as Treasurer, Joe?

Ideology matters. What politicians think matters. It matters to us taxpayers what politicians think about tax-payers’ resources, and how they think this money should be used. We have to budget carefully, and make sure dollars are used wisely. Shouldn’t political leaders have to do the same?

And what entitles any political party to a dollar of public money? They can solicit for funds, like any other community organisation. And if the vast majority of the community refuses to give them financial support, that’s life. But it is morally unconscionable for political leaders to get into office, and then pass legislation that gives their Party public money. Parties should stand or fall on their own diligence and competency.

I don’t care about the Labor Party. As Paul Kelly in “The Australian” commented, “Labor is beyond sound management… Labor’s funding bid was a raid on the public revenue.”[2]

What I do care about, is conservative political leaders making sure they don’t leave home without switching on their moral compass. Clearly, moral compasses are in short supply in federal politics, just as they were for the Poles in 1939.

 [1] “The Australian,” Editorial, 1/6/2013.

[2] Paul Kelly, “Funding Move Trips up Labor,” 1/6/2013.

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