It is a rare for me to agree with Janet Albrechtsen. Still rarer for me to hear her say, almost verbatim, an idea that I have bored my friends with for years. In yesteday’s Australian she draws attention to the corrupting influence of political donations and finishes with a rhetorical flourish…
So what is the answer to all this policy corruption? Simple. Ban all political donations by anyone, business, unions or individuals. Fund political parties out of consolidated revenue proportionate to voter support.
This would mean that the ALP would lose their union funding, which I suspect is why Janet is so keen on the idea. Not that the unions are likely to have much money after Workchoices kicks in. She then lays down the challenge.
If there is a better way of cutting the link between funding and policy, let the debate begin.
So let it begin.
Now Janet’s proposal needs a few modifications in my view. The first problem is funding being proportional to current support. Mathematically, a one party state is a stable equilibrium under this allocation rule. Of more immediate concern is the fact that it provides a barrier to entry for new parties.
The easiest way to fix this is to allow private donations to any party whose support is below some threshold. Donation to a party that does not yet have any political leverage is not a recipe for corruption. So the Greens or Democrats could be formed under this system. And you can will your estate to the Banks are Bastards Party if you really want to.
A second related problem is that minor parties without a large initial donation base are at a big disadvantage at election time when spending is most effective. This is fixed by providing minimum funding for any party with membership exceeding some threshold. This is actually the present state of affairs and got our Pauline into some trouble a few years ago. So our friends in the Libertarian Party get given enough money to place a modest number of prominent ads and at least add to the diversity of the public discussion.
The third issue is the status of party membership fees. They are really donations but are not paid with any possible expectation of favour. So let’s exempt these fees, recognising that this may be open to some manipulation. So the state is not funding the monthly meetings of the local party branches who are both willing and able to supply their own International Roast.
I expect many people, Troppo commenters included, will be immediately hostile to the notion of banning voluntary money flows in favour of funding from consolidated revenues. But I reckon I have heard most of the counter arguments and most of these can be addressed by asking the following question, which I suggest you ask yourself before you comment:
Does your objection apply to the proposition that donations to high court judges should be banned?