I don't know why taxpayers should bail out political parties for their failure to manage their election campaigns.
I've dreaded this for years, but now the state government has drawn up legislation to pay political parties and independent candidates $6 for each first preference vote, to bankroll their campaigns, where they achieve more than four per cent of the total.
This is more than double what federal parties and independents are paid, but it doesn't stop there.
Under this reprehensible piece of legislation, political parties of six or more MPs will also be paid $132,218 a year to do the paperwork on election donation laws.
For an independent it will be $38,564 a year, indexed to inflation.
In the May 1 election the new Clark independent member Kristie Johnston would have received an extra $41,964, based on her total of first preference votes, plus the annual admin reimbursement.
Not a bad entre to parliamentary life.
Based on $6 a vote, the Liberal Party at the May 1 election would have received $997,890; Labor $577,584 and the Greens $253,500.
Federally, political parties are funded at the rate of $2.87 per vote, NSW $4.66, South Australia $3 and Queensland $3.30. Only Victoria and the ACT rates exceed the $6 Tasmanian rate.
Public funding of election campaigns is the mother of all rorts. Why should taxpayers have to pay to be bombarded with propaganda, when all you need to do is cap campaign expenditure for the sake of a level playing field.
The Liberal Party wants public funding because of a fear that donation disclosure laws will scare off potential business donors, given that Labor gets a lot of its funding from affiliated unions while the Greens can rely on hordes of supporters and wealthy benefactors.
I fail to understand what the cost of election campaigns has to do with taxpayers. We're the victims in this democracy. We're the reluctant slaves of the electoral system and now they want us to bankroll the marketing of their lies and propaganda.
The legislation requires that the funding reimburses the cost of election campaigns, but really, you would expect any party treasurer worth their salt, would push the boundaries to maximise their funding allocation.
Nationally, public funding cost taxpayers almost $70 million at the last federal election, although I must add that this applied to both Houses of Parliament.
As far as I know in Tasmania it won't apply to the Legislative Council because for years the Tasmanian Electoral Commission has applied a cap on electoral expenditure in Upper House elections.
Why can't this be the case in the House of Assembly?
Answer, because the Libs don't want to miss out, so we're the mugs stumping up the costs.
I'm not pollie bashing. I fully support current salaries for MPs and I think it's ridiculous that ministers are paid less than their department heads.
I passionately support the numbers in the House of Assembly being restored from an unworkable 25 to 35 and for that matter, numbers in the Legislative Council being restored from 15 to 19.
Why? Because it makes Parliament more workable, it enables a more talented or qualified ministry and it provides more democratic contact between pollies and voters.
It's the same reason why I oppose a reduction in the number of councils across the state because the fewer the councils, the fewer avenues for grass roots democracy.
A smaller Parliament spawned the rise of minders and bureaucrats because backbenchers and ministers were swamped with heavier workloads.
A few of us tracked the cost of Parliament from when the numbers were reduced in 1998, and discovered that really there were no savings, despite the promises.
So you can see, this is all about them.
Of course we want them to be well paid because most of them work damn hard, with few days off.
Of course we want a greater number of elected members so they can do the job properly, but blow me down why we have to pay for them to get there?
Premier Peter Gutwein has acknowledged that public funding of House of Assembly election campaigns will cost taxpayers about $2 million, on top of the annual funding for administrative costs.
I'm beginning to wonder whether the admin reimbursement is a bigger rort than the funding per vote.
Surely public funding based on the percentage of the vote achieved is ample provision for any administrative costs, rather than some cosy top-up every quarter.
If House of Assembly elections only take place every four years, when the bulk of donations would undoubtedly occur, how come we have to cover their administrative costs every quarter of every year?
So, get ready for a new era of rorts.
The Electoral Disclosure and Funding Bill 2021 has already been drafted and is out there for public comment.
You have been warned.
- Barry Prismall is a former The Examiner deputy editor and Liberal adviser