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Wednesday, 9 November 1983
Page: 2522

Dr KLUGMAN(5.42) —I congratulate the Minister for Aviation and Special Minister of State (Mr Beazley), who is at the table, and the Government for following almost completely the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform. The two previous Opposition speakers were both members of that Committee and nearly all the honourable members on this side of the House who will participate in the debate were members on it. The Committee went through most of the issues raised again today by the honourable member for Boothby (Mr Steele Hall) and the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt).

Before I get on to the specific issues, I will deal with what seems to me to be one of the furphies in relation to the non-enrolment of young people. It is said that young people, and others, are alienated because they feel that they cannot influence politics although deep down they are really highly motivated and just bursting at the seams to participate in the political process but have not had occasion to do so. In September 1983 the Australian Electoral Office published a research report on the magazine readership of the population at large and of the unenrolled population. One of the interesting things it revealed was that 40 per cent of unenrolled respondents compared with 20 per cent of those enrolled read Cleo, You, Cosmopolitan, Australian Playboy and Australian Penthouse, publications which to my mind do not seem to indicate high political motivation. There seems to my mind to be some doubt as to whether that is the explanation for the lack of enrolment.

The last speaker, when dealing with public funding and because he knew he was on thin ice, kept emphasising that he opposed 'direct' public funding. He kept referring to 'direct public funding', and said that it was not a good thing to have public funding directly. He said that because there is already a lot of public funding of elections. In the first instance, let us look at why political parties of all types, some more obviously and some more hypocritically, are keen to get funding. In the October 1980 election $2.76m was spent by Australian political parties on electronic media advertising. In the March 1983 election, less than 2 1/2 years later, expenditure on electronic media advertising by Australian political parties was $4.3m. The necessity for funding of the political process is not peculiar to Australia. The Committee recommended, and the Government accepted, that funding should reimburse political parties, up to a certain limit, for Federal election campaign expenditure. If I have time later I will read to the House what the Liberal Party submitted to the Committee on this subject. The Liberal Party recommended that there should be funding not only of political campaigns but also to run the political parties themselves. Amongst the countries which have public funding are the Federal Republic of Germany, Norway, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Austria, the United States of America, Israel and France; as well as New South Wales. Let us look at the people who recommend public funding. This week Mr Puplick, who was Senator Puplick and probably at some stage will again be Senator Puplick, saw some publicity from associating himself with a publication of the Institute of Public Affairs. I note that former Senator Puplick, in his maiden speech in the Senate on 20 September 1978, as reported at page 775 of Hansard, started his remarks by saying:

As a democrat I regret the imperfections of our political system which are within our power to remedy. Despite what might be my lamentable idealism, I look forward to the days when we have public funding of political parties, disclosure of donations, some register of pecuniary interests, fair redistributions, one vote one value, a revised Federal Constitution and real popular participation in government.

Mr Beddall —Who was that?

Dr KLUGMAN —That was former Senator Puplick who, of course, presented, though had not prepared, the Liberal Party's submission on funding. The Liberal Party's submission on funding to the Committee stated that the Liberal Party was philosophically opposed to it. There is a big difference between the Liberal Party and the National Party on the question of public funding. The Liberal Party is philosophically opposed to it. The National Party is both philosophically and morally opposed to it which, I take it, makes it much more difficult for the National Party to accept the money, because one can sometimes overcome one's philosophical scruples but not one's moral scruples. The submission from the Liberal Party dealing with public funding stated:

We note that advocates for such schemes have further stated that it would benefit the whole political system to 'free' parties from execessive dependency on sources of funds other than those provided by the State or from their own party financial membership.

In paragraph 3.6 the submission said:

The Liberal Party acknowledges that public funding has been a commitment of the ALP for some years, and is clearly stated in several points on page 21 of their 1982 Platform, Constitution and Rules. We further acknowledge that such a commitment was also made (p. 29) in the Policy Speech delivered by Mr Hawke on 16 February 1983.

The Liberal Party went to a lot of trouble to make it easy for us to find reasons to introduce public funding. It headed its next chapter 'Facing Reality' :

Given the above, the Liberal Party recognises that there will be public funding . . . Clearly, and if the experience of New South Wales is to be any guide, public funding legislation may impose obligations upon a political party (for instance compulsory registration or compulsory disclosure of donations) whether or not that party elects to apply for public funding.

It asks that the scheme be administered by a truly independent authority free from ministerial or governmental interference. I emphasise this because the Liberal Party itself said that public funding is likely to come in, that it does not really have any great objection to it but that it should be done on a certain basis. It suggested a truly independent authority. We have agreed to that. The submission continued:

Consequently the Liberal Party will, while reaffirming its philosophical objections, propose the outlines of a public funding scheme, based upon the following principles:

and the Committee accepted all those principles-

. . . the scheme should not be used as a means for the covert change of the electoral system itself;

. . . the scheme should be fair to all participants;

. . . the scheme should ensure that support is provided in a way which accurately reflects the true level of support given to parties by the electorate ;

. . . the scheme should give full and adequate protection to the civil rights of individuals;

. . . the scheme should be administered by an independent, neutral body . . .

. . . any disclosure provisions should have levels of disclosure set at a reasonable figure;

As I said earlier, the Liberal Party also stated:

The scheme should be extended to provide support for Party maintenance operations as well as election campaign expenses.

So much for the philosophical objections from the Liberal Party. The submission goes into the Liberal Party's scheme in some detail but I do not have enough time to do so. The Liberal Party would have to agree that we have accepted most of its recommendations. We have not accepted the proposition that public funding ought to be provided for parties in between elections but we have even come to some compromise on its argument that the minimum level to be disclosed should be $10,000. I think it is relevant to read part of the National Party's submission, which puts strong views on the question of disclosure. On page 14 it is stated:

Individual contributions to a party or candidate, whether in money or in kind . . . should only be disclosed when in excess of $10,000. This figure should be indexed to take account of inflation. While $10,000 may be regarded as rather high it is most unlikely that any influence of consequence could be 'bought' for less.

This is a submission from the National Party. Members of that Party say that we cannot get them for less than $10,000. I know that people say that they have got them for less. I point out to the House one reason why the honourable member for Gwydir acted like a legal person and carefully kept on emphasising that he was opposed to direct public funding as distinct from public funding. I have before me a copy of a letter from the National Party of Australia, Queensland, signed by Sir Robert Sparkes, State President, which asks for donations to the Bjelke- Petersen Foundation. It states, in part:

I reiterate and stress the fact that any individual or Company that supports the concept of the Foundation can provide indirect financial assistance in a manner that is tax deductible, provided of course that the supporter has a product or service that can be advertised.

The procedure is for the supporter to purchase advertising space in the Party paper ''National Outlook'' which circulates throughout the State to approximately 25,000 people. If desired the outlay can be spread over say, 3 financial years. In the case of a company paying 46 per cent tax this of course means the actual cost of the assistance is reduced to 54 per cent of the nominal value.

There is no doubt whatsoever about the legitimacy of the advertising approach as far as the Taxation Department is concerned. The Foundation has obtained impeccable legal and accounting opinion on this matter, and it unequivocally confirms that the Taxation Department has no authority to query the ''Value for money'' aspect of the advertising. Enclosed is a photocopy of an opinion in support of this contention.

The question has been raised before. The previous Treasurer and I think the current Treasurer have said that this is not possible. All I can say is that the National Party has certainly collected a great deal of money out of it. When I asked Mr Mike Evans, Secretary to the Queensland National Party, whether any taxation benefits were available to the Foundation or to the people who donated to it, he said:

Yes. Currently, a contributor making donations to the Foundation, can be assessed for income tax deductions'.

That was said on 19 July 1983 before the Joint Committee on Electoral Reform.

Mr Griffiths —Can you read that again?

Mr Hunt —Don't bother, Dick; it will take up time.

Dr KLUGMAN —I am sorry; I realise that we do not have much time. I shall deal quickly with the question of list voting. I suppose we will be discussing it in more detail tomorrow. List voting was proposed by the Liberal Party. I emphasise that. The Liberal Party in its submission was keen on preferential voting. On pages 50 and 51 in relation to Senate elections and the high number of informal votes-I shall refer to that if I have time-it said:

It is conceded that the problems are far greater in relation to the Senate. This rose to a national high of 16.3 per cent in Lalor where voters were presented with 50 candidates.

There were even more, of course, in New South Wales. I emphasise that this is a Liberal Party submission. It went on:

If some simplification of this system is sought, the Liberal Party would only be prepared to support the use of a 'list system' of marking the ballot paper where such an indication meant that the vote in question was recorded as a fully preferential vote cast in accordance with a registered party's 'how-to vote' card which itself had been registered with and certified to the Electoral Commission.

The Liberal Party would vigorously oppose any 'list system' which did not extend preferences fully and completely to all candidates on the ballot paper.

This is exactly what we have brought in. We have brought in one of the recommendations made by the Federal Liberal Party. The Committee asked the Australian Electoral Office to supply figures relating to the informal votes for the Senate in the 1983 election in, if I remember rightly, 12 or 13 electorates. I do not know whether any of the representatives of those electorates are in the House to have the benefit of hearing the figures for their electorates. Let us take the electorate of Lyne. I think the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Cowan) was here a few minutes ago. There were 9,000-odd informal Senate votes in that electorate, 5,177 of which resulted from ballot papers being marked in an incorrect numeric sequence and 3,000 of which resulted from more than one square being left blank. Out of 9,000 votes 8,000 were unintentionally informal.

We propose in this legislation two alternatives for people voting for the Senate. If one accepts the proposition that we should follow the party ticket one can write the figure '1' against the Liberal-National Party joint Senate ticket or a single Senate ticket for either of those parties, for the Labor Party or whatever. If one does not feel inclined that way one can still vote for people individually by numbering the squares on the ballot paper '1', '2', '3', et cetera. We have said that no more than 10 per cent of the squares may be left blank. In the last election in New South Wales there were 63 candidates for the Senate. Provided no more than six squares are left blank and if, for example, one repeats the number 23, the vote will be considered to be formal until such time as it becomes informal. That strikes me as a terribly reasonable proposition.

If we look at the breakdown-I am sure the honourable member for Gwydir agrees with me; Senator Sir John Carrick did too-it is always accepted or assumed that the Australian Labor Party suffers most from informal votes and that therefore the Liberal Party wants to have as many informal votes as possible. In fact, that is not quite true. What really happens-I had noticed it when I was scrutineering-is that a greater proportion of elderly people tend to vote informally. Because there is a greater proportion of Liberal or National Party voters amongst the elderly, for practical purposes this affects the Opposition in the same way as it does the Labor Party. Where it was possible we had a breakdown of voters' intentions in the informal Senate vote. For practical purposes, the Liberal Party and the Labor Party were affected in exactly the same way. The highest number of informal votes was for the small parties, the Australian Democrats and the other parties, the reason being that they do not have people handing out how-to-vote cards and therefore people make mistakes.

There are masses of other points that I want to deal with. I hope to have that opportunity tomorrow in the debate at the Committee stage. I was pleased to hear that both the honourable member for Boothby and the honourable member for Gwydir basically agree-perhaps with certain reservations, to put it one way-that the legislation is a step in the right direction. It is a huge Bill, as honourable members know. There are 186 pages and hundreds of clauses to it. It will be a step in the right direction for democracy in Australia when all or 99.9 per cent of the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform are enacted.