NSW electoral funding reforms favour the wealthy 1%

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The NSW Socialist Alliance condemns the latest state electoral funding reform bill as a direct attack on democratic rights and collective organising in this state. In what is already an inherently undemocratic electoral system, the Liberal party bill (which passed through NSW parliament with the support of the Greens on February 16) does nothing to 'level the playing field’ but instead serves to further tips the scales in favour of the wealthy 1%.

Under the new funding laws, organisations such as community groups and trade unions are banned from donating to political parties, while severe and anti-democratic restrictions are imposed on their right to run political campaigns.

Corporations however, will remain free to spend over $1 million on campaigning for the parties of their choice. The new laws limit the right to make political donations to individuals, further ensuring that the corporate rich (who already control the economy and media) will have an even greater influence on the outcome of elections to political office in NSW.

The ability of ordinary working people to pursue our political objectives - whether at election times or on the streets - is dependent on our right to organise collectively. By placing harsh restrictions on political campaigning and donations by trade unions and community groups, the bill only serves to silence the 99%.

For this reason, the NSW Socialist Alliance calls for the immediate repeal of the electoral funding reform bill. In its place, we propose real measures that can begin to challenge the corporate elite's influence over the political process.

These include:

  • Abolition of restrictive and onerous electoral laws, including party registration and the nomination deposit for both the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council. Even the relatively low nomination deposit of $250 for the LA excludes a great many people;
  • Abolition of the current funding model (defined in s.55 of the Election Funding and Disclosures Act 1981). Currently, candidates are only eligible for public funding if they are elected or receive at least 4% of first preference votes. This model entrenches the status quo, and benefits the major parties in particular;
  • Introduction of publicly funded election campaigns for all candidates, to move away from the current system based on commercial advertising. All candidates would be ensured an equal amount of publicly funded authorised information on TV and radio, in letterboxes and newspapers etc;
  • Displaying of all candidates’ ‘how to vote’ instructions with equal prominence at all polling stations to remove the need for the wasteful distribution of HTV cards on polling day.

Such electoral funding reforms should also be accompanied with a more deep-ranging restructuring of the overall electoral system, currently stacked in favour of the two traditional, pro-corporate parties. This restructure would require steps such as a the introduction of genuinely proportional representation for elections to public office, the ability of voters to recall representatives, and placing politicians on an average workers’ wage.