The Western
Australian parliamentary Liberal Party has in the past few days paid a
humiliating price for the failings and incompetence of the State Liberal
organisation. Such is the
perilous state of the Liberal Party’s finances that the parliamentary party has
been reduced to begging the State Labor government to introduce public funding
of political parties in Western
Australia.

The Liberal
organisation is unable to continue to function without expropriating the
voters’ taxes. Were it not for the enormous generosity of a wealthy life member
of the party, it would have to close its doors. Such is the standing and odium
in which the WA party organisation is now held that business is increasingly refusing
to voluntarily contribute to its maintenance funding.

Just months ago the Western Australian State
and federal Liberal parliamentarians overwhelmingly refused a demand by the party’s
State President, Mrs Danielle Blain that each contribute $3,000 of their annual
salary to funding of the Organisation. The
parliamentarians sensibly argued that their salaries were not part of a public
purse to be plundered by a failed and incompetent party.

Mrs Blain’s
response to that rebuff has been to demand of the parliamentarians that they
vote for legislation which plunders the taxpayers’ purses through a poll tax:
Hence the announcement by the Liberal Party that it will support the Labor government
if it is of a mind to introduce public funding legislation.

As with
other Liberal governments across Australia, successive Liberal governments in Western Australia have in
the past never entertained or initiated public funding because as the present
WA State Labor government well knows, public funding overwhelmingly favours the
Labor Party, particularly when in government.

Attorney
General Jim McGinty has made clear over a long period that the Labor Party
will not introduce public funding unless he has the unqualified public support of
the Liberal Party: That has had the intended consequence of focusing public and
media attention upon the Liberal Party which has, following its announcement of
support for the legislation, attracted wide media criticism.

The
appalling state into which the Liberal Party’s finances have descended under
its present administration, needs to be seen in the context that the Party
raised and spent vastly more money at the last State election than did the
Labor Party. Raising funds for elections is not the problem. The difficulty is
that business simply will not support the Organisation in its present state under
the current office bearers.

The Liberal
Party’s rush to public funding is to skim the taxpayers for money to
run the organisation between elections as is made clear by a Mr Jeremy
Buxton, a Liberal
Party official who, in circulating a document on the government’s
proposed
legislation, tellingly observes:

  • Although
    the money will be provided after an election subject to expenditure
    reaching that level, in practical terms it will provide some basis of
    funding the Party organisation in the post-election period.
  • There
    needs to be an assurance that the money will be paid to parties and not to
    individual candidates, except in the case of Independents.

During the party room debate on the issue a number of
members, when arguing in favour of the Liberal Party supporting the enabling
legislation, reminded purists and sceptics that support of the legislation had
nothing to do with campaign funding or the state of the parliamentary party. It
had everything to do with financing the rescue of the wretchedly impecunious
and failed organisation.

Peter Fray

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