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Thursday, 10 November 1983
Page: 2611

Mr BEAZLEY (Special Minister of State)(5.03) —I will keep my remarks reasonably brief because of time constraints, but a couple of points made by the Opposition require an answer. The first point is that we must also recognise elsewhere in this legislation that the situation of the political parties will become much more important, not least because of the fact that political parties to which candidates belong will be stated on the ballot paper. With regard to things such as how to vote cards political parties will have to exercise far greater technical responsibilities in relation to the Commonwealth Electoral Act than they have done for some considerable period. Irrespective of the question of public funding, there needs to be a basis on which political parties can effectively be recognised by the electoral law so that when the electoral officers register the Senate cards and when they place a party designation against the name of a particular candidate they will actually have a reference basis on which to work. It seems that the registration of political parties is about the most sensible way that we can go about ensuring that that position is properly protected. Of course, registration of political parties is given added importance by the fact that provision for public funding is included in the Commonwealth Electoral Legislation Amendment Bill.

Two points need to be made about that matter. I have not claimed, nor to my knowledge has the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), that by providing for the public funding of political parties we will eliminate from politics all forms of corruption. That would be a silly thing to maintain. By this legislation we will be making a contribution to moving parties in that direction. There must be a reason why most other democratic nations have the public funding of political parties enshrined at the moment in their electoral processes-countries as diverse in their political systems as the welfare democratic socialist states of continental Europe and the United States of America, which I suppose at the other end of the spectrum in terms of a social system, stands of all democracies for the most unfettered free enterprise. The reasons why they have arrived at both of those conclusions is that they have noted within their systems the inordinate expense that election campaigns now impose on political parties and the potential for that expense to be a source of the corruption of the political process. While in many other areas of democratic practice we led the way at the time of our foundation as a nation, this is one area in which we trot along fifteenth out of some 22 democratic states in the world. As I said, we trot along in that position of fifteenth behind the United States and most European states. Nothing particularly unusual has been proposed in this legislation by the Government.

This clause stands in the first instance because we require the registration of political parties for the very many functions that it is now acknowledged by this Act that they perform, and for the purposes, as I said, of ensuring that this necessary and useful move to public funding is done on a proper basis.