The annual Australian Electoral Commission donations data dump was today, and I have collated the figures for the ‘political expenditure’ requirement.
The current rules were introduced by the Howard government in its lost-the-plot last term (I have extensively critiqued the law here). Their intention was to make life more difficult for left-wing ‘third parties’, and as can be seen from the table in most years left-wing organisations massively outspend right-wing organisations.
2009-10 was the first time since these disclosure rules came into effect that business groups outpsent the union movement. All of the declared spending of more than $22 million was by mining interests, presumably on opposing the planned mining ‘super-profits’ tax.
Under anti-democratic NSW laws that came into force last month, and which the Greens are likely to want imitated federally, the miner’s campaign would have faced significant legal restriction. In the period leading up to the NSW election, third parties can spend a maximum of just over $1,000,000 each on state election related issues. There are four separate mining entities reporting expenditure this year, so that would have given a cap of just over $4 million if the same provisions applied federally.
The political parties, unsurprisingly from their own perspective, tend to see considerable merit in regulating third parties. However from a liberal and democratic perspective this is very dangerous. It is the government place significant restrictions on its political opponents.
As the table indicates, the spending surges occur when the state attacks a particular section of Australian society (unions, then miners). Regardless of our own views of the merits of these policies, the targets should be fully entitled to put everything they can into defending themselves.