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Thursday, 10 November 1983
Page: 2627

Mr STEELE HALL(8.24) —I move:

(20) Clause 113, page 142, at the end of sub-section (1) of proposed section 153D add 'of three-quarters of the amount of the sum payable and shall make payment to the candidate upon whose votes the amount is payable, one-quarter of the sum'.

In clause 113 there are set out the various ways in which public funds shall be disbursed. There is no provision for payments to individual candidates. Public funds are to be directed to the State branch of a party. The situation is different in the New South Wales legislation. It would be wrong of me to hold up that legislation as a great example because I have always derided the argument of honourable members opposite on the basis that it certainly does not achieve the main objective that they said ought to achieve-the inhibition of corruption. But at least that example of public funding allocates a proportion of the funds to candidates. It seems to me that there is something wrong in principle with the operation of public funding if the funding is to go to the party machine. This is another example of how the Government regards the more authoritarian approach to be the best approach-put the money into the central party machine.

I do not support public funding, as the coalition does not. But if there were a principle behind it, I would have thought it would be to get the electoral message about which people will vote right across the electorate in some form or other. The Government will say that State branches of political parties will do that. But will they do it? There would be in almost every party an example of an individual who is off-side with the party organisation for some reason or other. He does not have to be off-side and to incur the wrath of the party not to get funding; he could simply be a candidate in a blue ribbon seat, and no money would be allocated by headquarters to spread the message. If we are saying that, as a matter of high principle, public funding is to be used to spread the message so that the public can make their assessment and vote, where do we as a legislature stand if we then say: 'Lump it all off to the central party of the State and we will not care whether or not it gives anything in a quarter of the seats. It does not matter. There need not be a message there'? The funding will be concentrated on a few swinging seats. Is it the objective of the Parliament to allocate these huge sums of taxpayers' money to a few seats? It does not make sense to me.

I have been looking for a principle behind public funding. I have not been able to find it, and I cannot find it here in the sense that again the individual, in the eyes of the Government, is less worthy than the authoritarian organisation. The State party headquarters will say yea or nay to whether a candidate's message will be supported. That is nonsense. In our amendment we have not gone to the extreme of the portion of funding which goes to candidates under the New South Wales legislation, but we have said that at least a quarter of the great public funds, millions of dollars across Australia, should go to the individual candidates for work in their electorates to make sure that a message for every Australian is supported by these public funds. How can the Government deny the justice of that case? Why has it departed from the one example of public funding in Australia which it uses as a model? Why has it ignored the individual? I can answer my own question only by saying that that is the basis of the operation of the Labor Party. It is the authoritarian approach: If an assessment has to be made between an individual and an authoritarian body, always come down on the side of the greater power structure against the smaller operator. That is Labor' s attitude to decision making, and it seems to be evident here. I ask the Special Minister of State (Mr Beazley) and his Party to consider this carefully. Surely his own members would desire a share of the funding for use in their own electorates free of party direction, knowing that not all of the funds will be lumped into marginal seats where they would be most politically effective in the interests of the party. Surely the public deserves a message.