WHAT IS YOUR VOTE WORTH…?
For most Australians the only value of their vote is the value it has to the candidate they vote for. Every primary vote cast in a candidate's favour is a vote closer to victory for that candidate. Where a preferential voting system is in place, second and subsequent votes to other candidates do have a "preference value"… but is that the end of the story?
Well, generally speaking this would have been the case until 1981 when the NSW State Government introduced the concept of publicly funded elections. Under this scheme political candidates would receive (taxpayer) funding from the government, in this case the NSW Government, for every primary vote cast in their favour provided that they achieved some minimum percentage of votes. That minimum percentage of votes has been set at 4% of the primary formal votes cast.
In 1983 the Federal Government, following the New South Wales lead, instituted its first public funding and disclosure scheme. Now all the States and Territories have similar schemes and the history is worth following through.
Back in 1983 a then junior Labor Minister, one Kim Beazley assisted with the introduction of the legislation which not only established the Commonwealth electoral funding scheme but set the payment per vote at 60c. While the payment is not made directly to the candidate it is paid to their agent and this allows political parties and candidate groups, as we get in the Senate, the first claim on taxpayers' money. The actual payment per eligible candidate is the number of primary votes a candidate receives multiplied by the value set per vote.
While this figure was 60c when the original legislation was put through provision was made for it to be updated on a six monthly basis. The
taxpayer funding rate for qualifying candidates for the 2007 Federal Election is 210.027 cents per eligible vote.
In other words your vote is worth just over $2.10 to the candidate of your choice so you can see that your first preference is of value, not only for the counting process but also for the financial benefits that accrue from it.
Originally when the concept of public funding was started the idea was to decrease the reliance of political parties on private and corporate funding. More generally it was proposed to make elections more equitable, democratic and to ensure that funding came from appropriate sources.
This goal however has not been fully realised, as massive amounts of private and corporate dollars to the major parties remains a substantial part of their funding. It has been claimed that public funding of candidates has merely served to provide more expensive elections and this could well be true. What it has done is to maintain the disadvantage to those candidates who are not the beneficiaries of large scale private and corporate funding.
What it has done is give everyone some form of basic funding providing of course they get the 4% entry level vote to start with.
Along with the concept of public funding came that of public disclosure. Under public disclosure rules candidates and political parties were obliged to disclose publicly all donations over a certain amount and again this concept has also been only partially successful. Loopholes have been developed and are being cleverly manipulated.
Until 2006, the amount above which disclosure had to be made was $1,500. This figure
for FUNDING AND DISCLOSURE (POLITICAL PARTIES)
has increased for the 2007 election to $10,300… quite a substantial increase.
(It is of interest to note that
Independent candidates must declare details of ALL donations totalling $200 or more. Both money donations and ‘gifts-in-kind’ (e.g. donated advertising) must be disclosed.
One would be forgiven for suggesting a double standard, or blatant
discrimination, is applied to Independents.)
Part of the disclosure concept was to ensure that political parties did not receive, or at least were discouraged from, accepting funds from inappropriate sources. The success of this concept is obviously dependent on the success of the disclosure regulation itself, but accepting this, the scheme does not discourage inappropriate funding.
So when you go to vote remember that you are not only voting for a candidate in a numerical way but you are also making a financial contribution. The total cost to taxpayers for the 2004 Federal election was a staggering
$41,926,158.91. That's almost forty two (42) million dollars.
Of this total, the major parties grabbed $40,949,602 of taxpayers money, made up by the Liberal Party of Australia: $17,956,326; Australian Labor Party: $16,710,043; Australian Greens: $3,316,702 and the National Party of Australia: $2,966,531.
Big bucks in anybody's language and paid for at the expense of Health, Education and
taxpayer services (water & energy) infrastructure!
So voting for a political party has become a massive financial windfall particularly for the major party initiators of this rip-off scheme… funded with taxpayer dollars!
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