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Committee: GetUp at Election Funding Inquiry

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 2 Nov 2011

Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters

Inquiry into the funding of political parties and election campaigns, Wednesday 2 November 2011

Mr Sam McLean, Private capacity

Full transcript available here.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for coming to give evidence. Some submissions we have received advocate public funding for administration purposes, and I note that you have also supported this position. You talk about a five-year transitional period to help parties adjust in terms of this funding change. Could you explain how that would work? Also, how do you see it would work for start-up parties? Virtually every election throws up new parties. How would they qualify? What benchmarks would they have to reach to also gain some form of public funding?

Mr McLean: Thank you for your question, Senator. The issue of public funding is one that I think many GetUp! members feel quite passionate about. It is clear that the public funding has been increased three times in the last 20 years and there has still been an increase in the amount of donations coming through the door and expenditure going out the door. We are of the opinion that public funding does not help prevent the arms race of political expenditure and therefore should be phased out and a new model should be explored. That is the idea of a five-year phase out period. As to how new parties or start-up parties are treated by that, we have suggested in the submission that a campaign finance authority be established or run under the AEC and I think it would be important that that authority has a remit to explore this issue and make some calls about how new parties are treated. Some of the things we have suggested in the submission include using public opinion polling and other indications of support to adjust the public funding ratio for new parties. I think that sort of situation would be needed to avoid what we had under the laws in the early 1990s where 90 per cent of funding was going to established political parties.

Senator RHIANNON: In the New South Wales state election there were a number of examples of the Nationals overspending the limits that had been placed in legislation that they had actually voted for. I noticed in 5.1 you talk about the need to prevent overspending. What measures would you advocate should be put in place to achieve that?

Mr McLean: Again I think that comes back to the funding authority and giving that authority enough muscle to levy fines on groups and to do so before an election occurs. I do not know whether I can give you a more sophisticated answer than that really.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.

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