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Wednesday, 6 May 1987
Page: 2434

Senator MACKLIN(6.41) —I want to address the amendment moved by Senator Sheil to the second reading motion before the Minister for Education (Senator Ryan) replies. The Australian Democrats will fairly obviously be opposing that attachment to the second reading motion. By way of explanation, I would like to foreshadow that if, as I expect, that amendment is not carried, I will move the following amendment:

At end of motion, add ``, but the Senate is of the opinion that the Act should be amended to require a party or candidate wishing to receive public funding for electoral expenditure to indicate this prior to the close of nominations by means of a formal declaration to the Electoral Commissioner by the registered officer of the party or by the candidate, and that in the absence of such a declaration the party or candidate should not be eligible for public funding''.

The reason I say that is an explanation as to why the Australian Democrats will not be supporting the amendment of the National Party of Australia is that I do not think it is proper that a party can campaign around the traps saying how dreadful the public funding issue is and then put its hand out, take the money and run. I think if National Party members want to say that this is dreadful and it should not happen, they should have the opportunity of actually not getting all of that money. They can then keep their principles nice and tight and cheap.

Senator Robert Ray —We'll protect their morality.

Senator MACKLIN —We will protect the morality of members of the National Party and allow them to make the declaration. But I think that if they want the money, they should declare that they want it. In fact I would want the declaration to go further and say something like that it is nice to have it or that it is the proper thing to have it. But I am quite happy that a person should actually make a declaration that in fact the party wishes to receive the money. The electorate would then have clear and out in the open, before an election campaign, which parties had signed up and which parties had not. I think that would settle the dust somewhat because I expect that the National Party, as it did last time, would sign up, that it would take the money. Therefore, I think it is basically hypocrisy to campaign against something when in fact one is willing to accept the benefits of it.

The reason the whole operation of public funding becomes so contentious-I think I concur with almost every item that Senator Ray has raised with regard to this-is that, quite frankly, I do not think the value of democracy ought to be a value which can be bought. The difficulty that the United States of America has experienced over the years, and the difficulty of its legislature in coming to grips with this problem, was exemplified to me when the last American delegation was here and I was discussing this matter of electoral reform and change with it. The point that the members of that delegation raised with me at the time was that money was the major item of concern to thinking American politicians. They were referring to the vast amount of money that was spent on electing candidates, sometimes in excess of $10m for an individual candidate. Every one of those politicians expressed his concern and his horror at what was confronting the American political system.

Senator Sheil's amendment that the Senate should deplore the Government's decision in this regard, I think is entirely wrong-headed. What that public funding that Senator Sheil seeks to condemn does do is provide a bulwark to protect parties and candidates from that massive pressure which undoubtedly will start to build up not only from trade unions, as Senator Sheil suggests, but also from major companies both here and overseas. So the Australian Democrats will not be supporting that amendment, but I do foreshadow the amendment that I suggested. I will move it at the appropriate point.