Electoral shenanigans masquerading as fairness: new Queensland funding laws

We’ve taken an interest in electoral laws in Queensland because they have been changed in a way which is anti-democratic and which favours the ALP government of Annastacia Palaszczuk.

The latest changes purport to level the playing field between political parties and candidates, but instead will encourage the formation of front groups, while allowing the major parties to dip even further into public funding.

Some of the changes are available from the Premier’s media release, but curiously for such an important piece of legislation, the Courier Mail appears to have more detail.

Normally a significant change like this would be the subject of some consultation prior consultation, but this bill is so rushed the consultation is going to happen after the bill has been introduced.

We believe this might have something to do with the ALP’s failure to raise funds, as demonstrated in this table which documents all declared donations in the last 12 months.

The size of the average donation to each party is very similar, with that to the ALP slightly larger than to the LNP. This demonstrates the unpopularity of the government, not that the rich are trying to buy government. These are modest donations, and those giving them are disclosed.

The next election will see ALP coffers boosted by an almost doubling of public funding, at the same time as third parties will be able to spend up to one million dollars state wide. This doesn’t just include organisations like GetUp, but trade unions and other community groups.

It is worth noting that trade unions do not receive donations, but as the Trade Union Royal Commission showed, they have extensive access to funds as well as union dues, by running training and other programs for companies. Dues and other income will not be limited by this legislation.

So the strategy appears to be to increase public funding and restrict election expenditure by political parties so that the ALP can easily equal the LNP, and then use the fact they have associated entities who will also campaign, to increase their effective spending to overpower the LNP.

This has a disproportionate effect on minor parties, as can be seen from the table below.

As the government they will get a further advantage as the lead-up to the election is likely to be full of advertising for government programs.

Before every election this government has sought to tilt the field in their favour. Before the last election it was the reintroduction of compulsory preferential (which they then tried to impose on local government). This election it is wholesale changes to the donations system to shield them from the effects of their unpopularity as much as possible.

And in between was the ban on property developer donations which left donations from unions untouched (for our work on that, click here).

“I grew up in an era when the government of the day in Queensland used to rig the rules to suit itself. 30 years ago I thought the Fitzgerald Report had put an end to it, but the tendency to cling onto power is strong, particularly in this government.” Graham Young