Briggs told The Age that:
with the Government’s recent release of a green paper on all aspects of electoral funding, “we must not just look at donations to political parties — reform must also cover the influence of third parties on elections”.
“If not addressed, heavily financed third-party campaigns will be like a growing cancer in our democracy.”
Though it does not provide a direct quotation, the paper reports Briggs as saying expenditure by third parties should probably be capped.
But I fail to see how people getting involved in politics can be a cancer on our democracy, unless they are aiming to overthrow our democracy, which clearly the groups that seem to pre-occupy Briggs – GetUp! and the ACTU – are not. All they are doing is opposing the Liberal Party, which may be frustrating and annoying to a Liberal MP, but is of no systemic concern.
My argument that even disclosing their political expenditure won’t make much difference and is just bureaucratic harassment seems to be indirectly supported by Briggs’ statement that:
“Australians are entitled to know who is behind the campaigns, how much is being spent and where the money is coming from.”
He hasn’t even noticed that they already provide this information, with another report due early February 2009. Last year’s was really not that interesting, telling us a) that political campaigns cost money and that b) left-wing persons and organisations provide that money to left-wing campaigns.
What GetUp! and the ACTU are doing in their campaigns is crystal clear from the campaigns themselves. They are in a very different situation to political parties, which may privately offer favours to donors.
Briggs’ attitude, plus conversations I have had with other Liberals, makes me worried about the Party’s response to the Rudd government’s green paper on election funding and regulation. I fear that they will agree to draconian restrictions on political freedoms in an attempt to control the left’s current political ascendancy. As with the Howard government in its later years, they are too concerned with short-term problems, and show too little interest in the systemic consequences of their actions.