As referenced here, today each citizen’s valid vote is worth $4.78 in public funding provided to major political parties ($2.39 for each of the Lower and Upper House primary votes cast).
One unresearched concept put to the Foundation (by recently retired politicians) would aim to break the increasing trend toward “career” politicians by proportionally tying the party funding per vote from the AEC to a sliding scale based on the proportion of representatives elected who were previously party staffers or student politicians.
A party would continue to earn the full amount of the re-imbursement where they had 20% or fewer of their representatives coming from that background. Beyond 20%, the re-imbursement would be scaled back proportionately down to a ‘floor level’ where, for example, a party with over 50% of its representatives coming from staffer or student politics background would cease to receive a re-imbursement per vote.
It is suggested that the importance of the current public funding to the parties is such that pre-selection behaviours would change radically, and the advantage gleaned from an individual potential candidate having been ‘in the system’ would be largely negated – the likely result being a more diverse pool of representatives.
This is a problem which has grown exponentially as representatives’ staff has grown over the last 30 years from a single staffer to a situation where an MP may have 8-10 staff.
Advantages of these Reforms
The simplicity of implementation and its ongoing compliance measurement are the key advantages. If the funding laws were enacted with a five year transition window then the effects on pre-selection would be immediate. The resulting advantage in practice is one of diversity and ‘representativeness’ of the parliaments. As noted above, it has been retired politicians advising the Foundation as to the simplicity of introduction of this requirement.
Arguments Against these Reforms
It can be argued that funding like this is discriminatory against a segment of the population, and that it to some extent it fails an ideal of fair legislation by being somewhat retrospective – as an individual who was a staffer prior to the legislation being enacted would have their likelihood of preselection in future dramatically reduced.
Background and Origins
This has been raised by Australian federal politicians in discussion with the Foundation.
Questions for Further Study
The key question to explore is how, and in what timeframe, this funding change alters the pre-selection behaviour of the parties who will be affected. A key secondary question is then to compare the relative diversity of parliaments before and after this regulatory change was implemented – and what measures of diversity we apply (gender, occupation, wealth, education, ethnicity, etc). A final point to measure will be the impact on public discourse of the ‘non-professional’ candidates – do they rise to senior offices, and are they viewed differently from other politicians (either more or less favourably).
What You Can Do
Given the role of the media in setting the political agenda, the Foundation would once again value citizens advocating this through letters to major newspapers.
None yet requested.
This is an unresearched concept.
Commentary piece on The Global Mail by Nick Bryant
Image credit: Sam Durant “Ask us What We Want” 2008