The threats to political expenditure

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.

4 thoughts on “The threats to political expenditure

  1. “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. ”

    This the problem with classical liberalism in a nutshell. Sounds good, but as miners have far more money than unions, in the long run this will simply lead to the rich and powerful dominating society (as it has done).


  2. Did you not notice the part of the graph where the Unions fairly consistently outspend the mines? (75% of the time) The miners actually have less money available to fight these sorts of things because they exist as profit making enterprises rather than being organisations fairlly dedicated to fighting political battles.

    One thing I find particularly interesting about this is that it indicates that Left wing groups consistently outspend right wing groups, so if you really believe that whoever has the prettier TV ads artificially adjusts policy in their direction then current Australian policy is significantly further to the Left than is should be.


  3. Actually, I think things are pretty much as you would expect given our democratic system. Contrary to what caltp..etc says, there is a very substantial redistribution from richer to poorer – ABS surveys find that about 60% of the population (the democratic majority plus an electoral safety margin) receive more in government benefits and services than they pay in taxes, with the top 20% of taxpayers and companies picking up the bill.

    Similarly for Tim P, left-wingers advance themselves through politics, so in a typical year we would expect them to put more resources into politics than right-wingers, and the numbers suggest that this is the case. Right-wingers advance themselves by selling things, and are stirred into large-scale action only when major threats to their businesses emerge.


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