Adjourned debate on second reading
(Continued from 29 November 2016)
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY ( 16:29 :12 ): I agree with the majority of the bill as I understand it is mainly to clarify certain points of administration of the act, but I wanted to put on the public record my concerns and opposition to clauses 9 and 10 of the bill.
Currently, moneys are paid twice a year to parties in special assistance funding. To be eligible for the funding, the political party must be registered, have a member of the party who is a member of the parliament, and submit a claim to the Electoral Commissioner. Small parties, that is, parties with five or less elected members in parliament, are entitled to $7,000, and large parties, those with more than five elected members, are entitled to $12,000.
This fund is currently in the act, and clause 9 of the bill proposes to prescribe it in regulation. The government has been very open that the intention is to increase this funding once it is prescribed in regulation, and I understand the reasoning for this is because other states offer much more. To remove these provisions from the act and prescribe them in regulation with the intention of increasing the amount of public monies that are paid to political parties does not sit well with me. I think that most taxpayers would be unhappy to hear that political parties will be getting more money when these funds could go towards other community priorities. It does not seem to be a good expenditure of public funds, and I will be opposing this clause.
Similarly, clause 10 of the bill will introduce a new one-off payment for special assistance funding. I understand this is a completely new payment which does not currently exist. This funding is only available to those who are eligible for payments under section 130U of the act and will provide for political parties to apply for a one-off payment of either $56,000 for small parties or $96,000 for large parties. I understand these monies are essentially to reimburse parties for the costs associated with complying with the act, and note that this payment, and the payment referred to in clause 9 and section 130U of the act, is only available to political parties, and not groups or individual candidates.
Again, I doubt many taxpayers would be supportive of giving additional monies to political parties just so they can comply with the law. There have been many examples of this parliament passing legislation which imposes a financial impost onto individuals or businesses, and we do not allow for public funds to be made available to assist in these circumstances. I do not see why we should be amending the act to help political parties just to meet their legal obligations. For this reason, I will be opposing this clause.