The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Divvying up the democracy funding pie

Lots of debate about public funding for political party campaigning, which The Red Letter has summarised well, including links to other key posts about this issue. No Right Turn brings up a point though that I would like to discuss further.

Why is the assumption that funding should be handed out proportionate to the support a party currently has (whatever formula you use)? Surely this just reinforces the status quo, makes it easier for National and Labour to remain unchallenged as the core components of any government, and generally heavily discourages new ideas and new policies from being promoted in our democratic debates?

I raised this the other day with a Labour member and was quickly slapped down with the claim that if there was significant funding for low or no polling parties then everyone would start up a political vehicle to get some of the dosh. Now that's easily dealt with by having criteria about how long a party has been established, minimum levels of membership, minimum numbers of candidates etc. Not to mention an auditing process at the end where the party would need to account for how the money was spent to support their election campaign.

So what really is the objection to a method of funding that is based not on incumbency but on giving New Zealanders, the actual voters, a fair chance to hear from a wide range of political perspectives?

Update, 8.51pm Thurs Aug 17 2006: Jordan has a post up about the reasons to support public funding, and the reasons National opposes it, which I largely agree with. Can anyone guess which bit I don't think is fabbo?


Anonymous said...

Because what ever system "they" chose will have to work in the interests of the Labour/National capitalist hegemony.

Don't be fooled that democracy exists in this country and that ideas and thinking are to be encouraged.

You've raised some good points in this post. It makes a lot of sense.

I think every registered party should be given the same amount of state funding and there should be no private funding of political parties. Then we'd see who's voted in. They should also drop the 5% threshold to 0.7% or so.

span said...

Sadly anon I think you are right - the two main parties control the funding systems and have a vested interest in not being fair. Just as National opposed proportional representation (and some within Labour did too if I recall correctly). Bah humbug.

I'd like to see the threshold dropped too - it's not as if the House is too small to have representation to 5% or less parties.

Again, incumbency rules OK. (And party hopping is indirectly encouraged too, as the only way to effectively start a new political party).

Psycho Milt said...

You answered your own question Span! "...makes it easier for National and Labour to remain unchallenged as the core components of any government..." Seek no further for an explanation.

Nor does it surprise me that Labour members hate the thought of lots of people starting up their own political parties. Democracy's never been Labour's strong point. I do hope though, that the Labour member you spoke to recognised the irony in Labour not wanting other political parties to misuse public money...

Gerrit said...

The down side of public funding is that it strengthens the power of the political parties executive at the detriment of its members. The executive are no loger reliant on its members for income generation and can then ride rough shod of their wishes.

Thus removing a layer of democracy from the People.

Raises another interesting point in how much democracy there is inside political parties anyway. Are its members actualy listen to and their wishes implemented?

Personally favour both public and private funding with the priviso of stringent and totally independent auditing like you suggest.

One thing you cant cost is the political parties members donation of time. Hence the larger the party the more feet on the ground, the wider the message is spread.

Jordan said...

My personal view is that a mix is best, Span. I'd like definitely to see an equal base grant for all parliamentary parties, and to see how we can have a base grant for non-parl parties that have a reasonable call on it (e.g. have recently been in parliament, have audited membership above X, or whatever).

The simple fact is though that the funding ought to have a per-vote component as this reflects voter support. It would be mad to give the Alliance as much as the Labour Party under *any* form of public funding. The Alliance simply doesn't have the public support to make that reasonable.

The other possibility could be a cap on the maximum per-vote funding a party could get?

span said...

Why does public support have to be such a big component? Can you not see Jordan how it supports incumbency??

I find it rather convenient for those who support parties already in Parliament, and already in large numbers, to want to dole out money based on votes and support previously received.

We all know how crucial coverage is to getting votes - money ensures coverage. The inability for parties other than Labour and National (really) to access big dollops of broadcasting is one of the aspects that ensures they remain the two big parties.

Are Labour and National so scared of real competition, fair competition, that they can't deal with a funding system that puts parties on a more even footing?

Commie Mutant Traitor said...

Cause and effect, Jordan. A democracy _should_ be about the people making _informed_ choices between all the available options. That can only happen if all the options have an equal chance present their case.

Gerrit said...

Third party endorsement in a manner that replicates what the Exclusive Brethren did for the National party will be of huge benefit to the bigger political parties.

These endorsements will paraphrase the supported political parties sales pitch to the electorate but appear in the manner of concerned citizens exercising their right to free speech.

The third party's endorsement is off course beyond the election commissions funding limits for political parties.

To some extend this has been happening for a long time but in a rather unsophisticated and under funded way.

One could get a not too pretty picture of polital parties executives being held accountable not to their members but to third party influences.

Jordan said...

The experience of our country's history is that parties expand and develop slowly and make progress through the electoral system. Labour replaced the Liberals over a twenty year period.

I'd not mind if there was a forward looking element in the funding system, like I said. However I don't think that giving each party equal time is ever going to happen. Maybe on an ideal level, but this is politics... I know I'd be treated like a space cadet if I suggested it.

The question is whether any public funding along these lines is better than none. I submit that it is. The issue of small or fringe parties wanting to have a greater impact is a part of that debate but only a small part, in my view.

Anonymous said...

If the NZ Labour Party continues to take more of a Third Way position, embedded in both social and economic liberalism, then you may find yourselves going down the track of the earlier Liberal Party. That is, a large dominant party that eventually fizzes out.

I'm not really sure why Labour calls itself Labour in New Zealand. It hardly works solely in the interests of workers forced to sell their "labour". Why doesn't the Labour Party advocate that workers take over the means of production? Wouldn't that advance the interests of workers?

This Labour Party is more about advancing the interests of the already wealthy and crossing their fingers for the trickle down theory to work.

Do you see any similarities between the NZ and Canadian situation where the Liberal Party there has moved further to the Right, much like the NZ Labour Party (compared with the early and mid 20th century), thus leaving ground for other left wing parties? Or do you, like others in Labour, think that any chance of that happening was in the post 1984-1990 Government?

Brian S said...

Span - You are quite correct that public funding on a per vote basis entrenches the current ruling party and it blows MMP out the window. But alternate methods have downsides as well. How would you feel about a party such as the New Zealand National Front getting the same funding as any other party? I don't know about you, but I think it stinks that public funding in whatever form forces me to support parties that I vehemently disagree with.

What's wrong with the current system of funding? It gives minor parties far more of a fighting chance that any publicly funded system (except for the stupid broadcasting laws) and you aren't forced to give to causes that you consider wrong and even immoral. Of course, what is wrong is that Labour was caught with its hand in the trough and now wants to retrospectively legislate to make it legal.

Commie Mutant Traitor said...

The current system is hopeless biased in favour of parties that appeal to the wealthy. I loathe the National Front, but if they get sufficient support to become a registered political party, then yes, they should have an equal opportunity to present their policies. Fortunately, they don't have that level of support, and I'd recommend raising the bar further (say, requiring a thousand members instead of the current 500).

Brian S said...

CMT - As one who is not exactly short of a bob or two, I can tell you that statist parties such as National or Labour have no appeal for me. I prefer parties such as the Libertarianz. I would suggest that you probably adhere to the fixed quantity of wealth fallacy, which leads you to conclude that wealthy people are out to screw the poor. On the contracy, wealth can be created and it is in the interests of wealthy people that the wealth of everybody, including the poor, increases. Of course, there are wealthy people that do prefer National or Labour. Some of these people, despite being wealthy, do not have any real idea about how wealth is created; they actually believe National or Labour would be better. Some others hope to manipulate policy so that they benefit. It is these people I guess you are afraid of, but I would counter that other wealthy people who really do understand how wealth is created would balance these people out. Like everybody else, wealthy people have a diversity of viewpoints and motivations. They are individuals and it is stupid to think of them as some sort of collective.