Culture

Pauline Hanson’s Set To Pocket Up To A Million Taxpayer Bucks Because Of Our Election Laws

Payday.

Here’s a fun fact about this year’s incredibly riveting and decisive federal election campaign: You paid for it! All the major political parties, as well as high-polling minor party candidates including Pauline Hanson, will pocket big money as a result of this campaign, and thanks to a loophole in our election laws, they can spend it on whatever they want.

While our political parties and candidates raise the significant amounts of funds needed to run campaigns from individuals, unions and businesses, they also get millions in public money due to Australia’s incredibly generous system of election funding. Every party or candidate that gets over 4 percent of the vote in a particular seat, or in the Senate, is eligible for $2.60 in public funding for each individual vote they receive.

At the last federal election the Liberal party pocketed $24 million in public funding, Labor got $21 million and the Greens received $5.5 million. All together taxpayers subsidised political parties to the tune of $58 million. We won’t know exactly how much money each party will make this time around since all the votes haven’t yet been counted, but we can estimate it based on their current votes.

Labor, the Coalition parties and the Greens will all pocket millions due to their relatively high votes. But another big winner this campaign is likely to be Pauline Hanson. Based on her Queensland Senate vote alone Hanson’s One Nation party is on track to receive $400,000 in electoral funding. If you throw in the House of Representatives seats where One Nation polled more than 4 per cent, the party will pick up more than $700,000 from Queensland alone. In NSW One Nation is just 0.02 percent away from the 4 percent threshold. If they get over the line they’re eligible for another $300,000 in funding. Add it all together and One Nation could be receiving a $1 million cheque courtesy of the Australian taxpayer.

There’s nothing unfair about One Nation getting electoral funding. They are playing by the same rules as the other parties and if lots of people vote for them they are entitled to public funding. Proponents of public funding for election campaigns claim that government subsidisation of political parties is good for democracy because it evens the playing field and reduces the influence of political donations. But political parties still receive millions in private donations and there’s not much evidence to suggest public funding stops politicians acting corruptly.

Our system of public funding is incredibly generous because political parties and candidates can spend it on whatever they want. There’s no requirement that it be spent on election campaigns. Most parties will spend it on party propaganda, campaign materials or staff wages, but if they want, successful election candidates can spend their money on buying a new car or a house, subsidised by the taxpayer.

Countries like the UK and Canada, that have similar electoral systems to Australia’s, require public funds to spent on party administration and campaigning. Even if you support public funding of political parties, it’s hard to argue that parties and candidates can spend the money we give them on whatever they like, or pocket it for themselves.

There’s a broader question of whether political parties even need tens of millions to run campaigns. They argue that they won’t be able to get their message out otherwise. But the most expensive part of running an election campaign is paying for TV ads. How useful are boring videos of Malcolm Turnbull talking about “jobs and growth” again and again? The fact that we, as taxpayers, subsidise them is even more grating.

I for one can’t wait to see how One Nation spends the potential $1 million taxpayers could be forking out to them.