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Thursday, 8 February 2007
Page: 8

Mr DANBY (12:55 PM) —Pauline Hanson’s contribution to Australian politics has caused much pain to many of her fellow Australians. I abhor her views. However, she is as entitled to make use of the electoral processes of this country and the electoral funding proposals as any other citizen. What lies behind her announcement that she is to run in the 2007 election for a Queensland Senate position? At the 2004 election she stood and gained more than the minimum quota of four per cent of votes for election as a senator for Queensland. That meant she was entitled to matching government funding of more than $1.90 per vote. That secured her over $200,000 of public funding. That $200,000 was not matched by her expenditure: her receipts to the Australian Electoral Commission were a mere $35,000—a profit of $165,000. When she participated in Dancing with the Stars, I do not think people thought that she could spin out this celebrity status into another profit of $165,000.

I recently wrote in the Courier-Mail that this reminded me of the plot of Mel Brooks’s famous movie The Producers, where the shonky Broadway firm of Bialystock and Bloom invented a swindle, a Broadway play that had to close on the first night by employing the worst actors, the worst script, the worst director and by closing and selling 10,000 per cent would make a profit—in other words, a scam that rewards a lack of success. In Ms Hanson’s case, being unsuccessful in getting elected in 2007 nonetheless means, within terms of the matching funding legislation in Queensland, that she—or anyone who has similar celebrity status—could make an enormous financial boon, a financial advantage, out of the process of public funding at elections that was designed to encourage the equalisation of democratic opportunity.

It is a disgrace that the government has allowed this scam to continue. I have raised this previously at the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters but government members have chosen to do nothing about it and the government has chosen to do nothing about it. It is a great shame and what it means is that anyone can spin out celebrity status into a private monetary benefit if they get above a minimum quota and their receipts show they spend less than they receive from the taxpayers.

I do not just raise this issue, I do not make a negative criticism of the government without making what are constructive suggestions myself. The government could do either of two things. Firstly, they could increase the quota in the Senate so that you could not get a mere four per cent and then get all of this public cash at your disposal. They could increase the quota to half of a quota for the Senate before candidates were entitled to public funds, which would be around eight per cent of the Queensland vote. I do not believe Pauline Hanson or any other celebrity candidate would be able to attract that number of votes unless they were seriously running. That would therefore make impossible this financial scam of public funding an election, which refunds them far above their expenditure.

Secondly, the government could do what Labor has pressed them to do a number of times at the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, and that is to make all political parties put in receipts to match their expenditures. That would seem to be an obvious thing that the Australian people would support—an obviously fair thing, an obviously rational thing, an obviously transparent thing and, I believe, a responsible attitude to the expenditure of public money.

The government does not want to do that because it is much easier to get all of this public funding cash without accounting for it. We know the Liberal Party spends a lot of money, as does the opposition, at election time on TV and other advertising. No-one doubts that the government or the opposition spend the money that they receive from matching funding from the taxpayer. Indeed, they still have to raise more. But we do not want to encourage people to be involved in financial scams by using the matching funding provision, as appears to be the situation in the case of Ms Hanson.

This is part of a whole series of government irresponsibilities in electoral matters for which they should really be hammered before the next election. The principal one is their proposal to close the electoral roll on the day the election is announced. This is an absolute, antidemocratic scandal. Nearly 300,000 people lost their right to vote in the 1983 election when Malcolm Fraser did the same thing. The same thing is going to happen at the next election. We are already in a terrible situation. We have 50,000 fewer enrolments now, at this very moment, in Australia than we had in April 2005. How is the government going to get all of those people on the electoral roll when they are going to close the roll on the day the election is announced? Hundreds of thousands of people’s democratic rights are at stake. (Time expired)