There is one final question that Stephen Mayne wanted answered (13 April, item 8) and I’m more than happy to oblige:
When public funding already delivers an average of almost $20 million a year to our entrenched political duopoly, why are we changing the law to deliver an estimated $22.5 million in extra taxpayer contributions over the next four years by lifting the tax deductibility of donations from $100 to $1500 when things like mandated child support payments for divorced parents are not tax deductible.
On the relative merits of any one particular tax deduction over another, that is subjective. Suffice to say, if we believe involvement in the political process has a social value comparable to other volunteer not-for-profit bodies, then why not have limited tax deductibility?
And as for entrenching the so-called duopoly, you might like to consider the fact that the parties with the greatest reliance on donations of less than $1,500 are the Greens and Democrats – therefore the tax changes will actually make it more economically viable for their supporters to donate to their campaigns.
Finally, I have a question of my own for Stephen: What is his political funding model? It is easy to criticise, but what is his workable solution? Chook raffles?
Stephen Mayne responds:
Peter is partly right about the boost to minor parties but the 4% threshhold for public funding is a nice little hurdle that reduces their relative position against the duopoly. Just ask the Democrats.
We all know how tax deductions such as film schemes, olives, negative gearing and the like get abused, so expect the same to happen as early as June this year with political donations. Rather than a company donating $15,000, stand by for 10 well-paid executives to hand over $1500 each, so the tax man picks up almost half the tab and the public knows nothing of the overall contribution.
As for my political funding model, the following would increase debate, stimulate participation, environmentally save costs, reduce barriers to entry, lower corruption and reduce the risk of an election victory being bought:
Stephen Mayne’s political funding model
Political parties in federal elections are not allowed to spend more than $15 million, similar to the British cap of 17.5 million pounds. An independent body arbitrates on what constitutes political advertising by a government and postage allowances for individual MPs are limited to enough for two four-page flyers each year, but no taxpayer-funded correspondence is permitted six months before an election.
Borrowing from the Americans, only individuals on the Australian electoral roll are allowed to donate, so there’s no more company, union, or foreign money corrupting the process. Political party membership fees are tax deductible, along with individual donations of up to $500 a year.
Public funding continues but is reduced to $1.50 a vote, with a lower threshold of 1%. No candidate or party can make a Pauline Hanson-style profit from public funding because taxpayers only reimburse receipted election expenses, which is the model introduced by the Bracks government.
The manning of polling booths is no longer permitted, but each candidate has how to vote cards available in piles inside the polling station which voters can choose to access if they wish.
The ABC, SBS and commercially licensed television and radio stations are required to surrender more free air time to the government and opposition for political statements and advertising during election campaigns and mandated one hour television debates between the two leaders are required on the last two Sundays of each campaign.
The one area I haven’t covered is third party spending, a major feature in America and something that will crop up with spending caps. A blanket ban might not be workable, so I’m open to suggestions on this one. Over to you for a response Peter. And please advise if your recent withdrawal from the NSW Liberal Party state executive elections should be interpreted as confirmation you’ll be the Right’s candidate against John Ryan for the NSW Upper House ticket at next year’s state election.