In recent weeks, the news has been dominated by stories about the desire of the NSW Liberal Party to reform the state electoral funding system in New South Wales – supposedly to reduce the influence of private donations. Today, Mike Baird announced new legislation to change the electoral funding system in the lead-up to March’s state election.
The media reporting has focused on tougher sanctions, and a supposed increase in the proportion of election spending that will be publicly-funded.
But it’s missed a major story – about how the public funding regime will substantially favour the major parties over smaller parties, giving major parties 55% more public funding per vote, and possibly locking out some smaller parties out of getting any public funding at all.
Under the proposed changes, funding will again be based on how many votes you receive (unlike in 2011), but this funding will be disproportionately weighted towards the major parties. Substantially more funding will be provided to a party that wins seats in the Legislative Assembly.
On my reading of the law, a major party that wins 32% of the vote in both houses would be entitled to spend $9.3 million, and receive back the same amount, effectively funding their entire campaign.
Smaller parties would be entitled to spend more than they would be entitled to receive in funding, but if they spend less than they are entitled to receive, they will receive less funding. This effectively provides certainty to the major parties while denying it to smaller parties. I may be wrong on that point – this law is quite a mess.
There is in particular a huge amount of uncertainty for the Greens, who could be entitled to approximately $3 million or $2 million based on the result in two inner-city seats.