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Thursday, 10 November 1983
Page: 2614


Mr GROOM(5.23) —As mentioned earlier, registration is the keystone of public funding. I take this opportunity to indicate that I am totally opposed to public funding. I was surprised by some of the comments made by the Special Minister of State (Mr Beazley). He seemed to be half-hearted about his reasons for supporting public funding.


Mr Beazley —That is because it is not in this clause.


Mr GROOM —The Minister commented upon it and I want to comment on the remarks he made. He talked about it helping to reduce corruption. This is nonsense. There is no way in which public funding of political parties at election time will reduce the risks of corruption in our political system. The Minister must realise that. There is at the moment a risk of undue influence and bribery and corruption. That risk will remain despite the public funding of political parties. The degree of risk will depend upon the integrity, the honesty and the character of the people involved in the political system. That is obviously a fact, and will remain so.

The Minister also seemed to say that this will somehow assist political parties . He said that campaigns are expensive and that by providing political parties with about $7m or $8m of public funds, as provided in this Bill, the burden borne by political parties will be reduced. I do not believe that is a fact. If we give $7m or $8m of the taxpayers' money to political parties, the cost of campaigns will increase by $7m or $8m. That is a fact of life. If a wage or salary earner gets an increase in his wage or salary, his expenses increase by a proportionate amount and he is just as much in debt after getting an increase in his salary as he was beforehand. The same thing happens with governments. When they get an increase in revenue, somehow there is an increase in expenditure programs, all the money is absorbed and the deficit is just as high. The same thing will happen with political parties. They will be given to spend as they want $7m or $8m of taxpayers' money, the money of the ordinary, working people of Australia, and they will spend an additional $7m or $8m on a campaign. There will be a more lavish campaign. Let us take our hats off to the voluntary workers in the political parties. They do a tremendous job foot-slogging around the place, raising money and working hard. They do a tremendously important job in the political process in this country. We do not always give them the credit we should give them.


Mr Scott —It is registration we are talking about.


Mr GROOM —Yes, and funding is based on registration. The Chairman has already given a ruling on that point. The workers who help us, whether in the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party or the National Party, will have to do just as much work. There is no advantage whatsoever in this system. We will spend $7m or $8m of taxpayers' money, and there are many disadvantages. As the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) said yesterday in an excellent speech, this is nationalisation of the political system. That is a fact of life. The whole political system will be controlled. Under the clause we are now debating returns will have to be made and forms will have to be filled in. What good do forms do? A candidate will have to fill in his return. That will employ a lot of people. Party officials will have to fill out their returns, and that will employ a lot of people. A publisher will have to fill out his return and that will employ more people.


Mr Beazley —I take a point of order. This is way off the clause being debated. We are dealing with registration. What the honourable member is discussion is coming up later.


Mr GROOM —The Minister has already made comments. I am relating my comments--


The CHAIRMAN —We are dealing with--


Mr GROOM —I will wind up my comments.


The CHAIRMAN —Order! I ask the honourable member to make his remarks relevant to the clause.


Mr GROOM —I accept your ruling, Mr Chairman. The Minister said that in the United States and in Europe there is public funding, and that that makes it right.


Mr Scott —Registration.


Mr GROOM —We are talking about public funding at the moment.


Mr Scott —We are talking about registration.


Mr GROOM —We are talking about public funding and relating it to registration. Does the fact that the United States and Sweden have public funding and that West Germany has it to some degree make it right for Australia? We have a good political system and it will be caused great harm as a direct result of this Bill and of this clause.