Surcharge to Support the Political Process
One of the big issues for all democracies, including Australia,
is the corrupting effect of political donations from corporations
and other organisations.
When companies make political donations they are not doing it out
of generosity, to support democracy in Australia. They want a
return. A decision to go their way. A regulation or law rescinded
or not implemented. It may not be anything specific. A party
which receives significant donations from an organisation over the
years will begin to factor that into their decision making when
considering new policy. The party will not want to upset their
corporate donor, to risk losing that donation which may impact on
their operational ability. Often corporations can get massive
returns on their "investment" - a few hundred thousand dollar
donation can result in the overturn of a decision, or a policy
that would benefit Australia but not the corporate donor not being
adopted. A favourable decision could impact on the company's
bottom line by millions of dollars. But it could have a much more
detrimental impact on Australia as a whole. While the company and
the political party wins, Australia as a whole loses.
Political donations from companies and organisations are a
corrosive force in our democracy. They must be either banned or
limited to such an extent they are not large enough to change a
However the political process is expensive. Running a political
party is expensive. They need money. If it is not from the donors
then it has to be from the taxpayers. It will be expensive but the
cost of not doing it is more costly.
I propose a tax surcharge on all taxpayers, individuals and
companies, to pay for the running of political parties. I don't
know what size the surcharge would be, but probably a fraction of
a percent. For many companies this would result in a saving as
they would be banned from direct political donation.
How the money would be distributed would have to be determined
but would be based on the number of votes the party - or political
candidate - receives, and whether they were elected. Parties
/candidates that are elected would receive a higher amount with
payments spread over the years between elections. An unelected
candidate might receive a smaller one off amount, once their vote
hits a certain threshold.
Donations from private citizens to political parties would be
allowed with the annual amount strictly limited and full real time
disclosure once the annual value is over a certain modest amount.
Organisations (let's call them Political Action Organisations -
PAOs) could be set up to campaign on a single issue only. They
would not be able to be set up by political parties or candidates.
They could be an already existing organisation - but not a
company. They would not be able to accept funding from political
parties, affiliates or candidates. They also would not be able to
donate to political parties or individual candidates. They would
not be able to accept funding from companies. Their sources of
funding would be fully transparent in real time - published on
both their own website and a centralised website.
The PAO could run an advertising campaign in support of their
single issue. The PAO would not be able to attack or support a
candidate or party, only an issue. For example there could be a
climate change action PAO that would advocate for greater action
on climate change and for people to vote for candidates that
support climate change action - but they would not be able to name
the candidate nor the party that supports - or doesn't support -
their aims - though they could publish on their website surveys
that compare and rate the parties/candidates policies in relation
to the single issue. The way this was done would have to be
regulated. The PAO would need to be registered as a PAO before it
can operate and their issue of interest fully disclosed.
Professional lobbying is also an issue. While the power of the
lobbyist will be significantly lessened as they will not be able
to back up their lobbying with political donations they may still
have more power to influence than the average voter. I would
certainly ban their ability (and everyone else's ability) to wine
and dine or to offer any other gift to politicians or candidates.
It would be difficult to ban them meeting with politicians -
everyone has the right to meet with a politician. However there
has to be transparency in their meeting with the politician. To
that end I would make it a requirement that the politician's diary
be published on line after the event - published in the following
week. (It couldn't be published before the event as there could be
security issues.) If the meeting was with a constituent the
published diary would not necessarily publish the name of the
constituent if the constituent didn't want it published. For other
people, including lobbyists, the name would be disclosed, as well
as the company or PAO if relevant and a brief overview of what was
to be discussed. All correspondence would be subject to freedom of
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