The Liberals and the issue cycle

The controversy-ridden book on the future of the Liberals, Liberals and Power, was launched on Friday by Alan Jones, who as the Australian‘s report of the launch noted, knows a thing or two about plagiarism himself.

My (unplagiarised, unghost-written) chapter was on the Liberals and the issue cycle. The basic theory is that the major parties each “own” issues, in that there is systematic pattern over time of poll respondents saying that they prefer one party over the other for that issue. These perceptions are only loosely related to actual policies and performance; they are stereotyped impressions of the parties that are substitutes for actual information.

The Liberals own taxation, national security, defence, migration and tend to do well on the economy (though this one is more performance dependent); Labor owns welfare, education, health, industrial relations and beats the Liberals on the environment (the Greens are a complicating factor for this issue).

Because issue ownership tends to be fairly stable over time (though the margins by which parties lead on their own issues fluctuates), issue cycle theory suggests that it is the relative importance of issues, more than the party’s performance as such on the issues, that determines which party has an issue advantage.
Continue reading “The Liberals and the issue cycle”

Could political expenditure disclosure laws be unconstitutional?

I am pleased that the NSW government has dumped its absurd and anti-democratic plan to ban political donations.

The apparent cause, however, was not a realisation that the original proposal was a bad idea. It was this advice on its constitutional and practical difficulties by the consistently impressive Anne Twomey.

Twomey’s report does not discuss the law in which I have the greatest personal interest, the federal laws on political expenditure disclosure. Under the current law, persons or organisations spending more than $10,300 on an election issue have to disclose both how they spent the money and, if it was based on donations of that amount or more, who the donors were.

The current federal government plans to reduce that threshold to $1,000, meaning that thousands of people and groups that may comment only incidentally on election issues will be caught up in tougher disclosure requirements than political parties (which have to disclose donations, but don’t have to itemise expenditure). Those individuals, or the office-holders of the groups, face a conviction and possible jail sentence for failure to comply.
Continue reading “Could political expenditure disclosure laws be unconstitutional?”