Saturday, April 22, 2006


Taxpayer funding of political parties is an attempt by the major parties to hide the poor state of their finances and the decreasing numbers of lay party members.

Party power brokers know it is easier to accept public funding after each election than to control large numbers of lay members who want to be actively involved in decision-making and policy-setting.

Former Liberal MP Bernie Masters believes that his opposition to public funding of political parties contributed to his loss of support from his former party.

“In late 2003 when this issue was first raised by Electoral Affairs minister Jim McGinty, I advised then leader Colin Barnett that I was opposed to taxpayers’ money being used in this way,” Mr Masters said.

“The issue was then raised at my preselection where I was criticised for daring to oppose what was the party line in support of taxpayer funding of political parties,” he said.

“The arguments in support of funding the major parties in this way are based upon the perceived need to stop donors from having undue influence over the parties and candidates to whom they’re providing money.”

“However, unless laws are created to prevent donations being made to political parties except from the public purse, then the potential will always remain for someone to try and buy influence by making a donation.”

“The truth is that donations to political parties from their usual sources are drying up.”

“The Labor Party gets most of its money from the union movement, but union membership is at an all time low level and the ability of unions to fund the ALP is being stretched.”

“Business donations to the Liberal Party are now available for the public to see and many companies fear upsetting their shareholders or losing customers if they provide money to just one party.”

“More and more companies now make relatively small donations to both major parties at election time so as not to annoy a party that may form the next government.”

“Ultimately, taxpayer funding of political parties is a threat to our democratic political system since it will make lay party members even less important than they are at present.”

Part of the legislation proposed in 2003 was to have fixed 4 year terms for the WA Parliament.

“I’m also opposed to this as it is a restriction on the ability of the elected government to call an early election should circumstances warrant it.”

“In these times of terrorist attacks and deadly tsunamis, it’s possible that urgent but highly controversial action may be proposed mid-term by the government of the day.”

“The government may want to prove to its critics that it has strong public support for its controversial proposals by calling and winning an early election, but a fixed 4 year term would make this impossible.”

“Democracy will be the loser if these measures are introduced. They will make governments and political parties less accountable to the people and they allow power brokers to exert even stronger control over their parties.”

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