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Independent Senator suggests State funding for election campaigns

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Water Resources and the Environment Minister Ganga Singh said a proposal by Independent Senator Elton Prescott for the State to finance political parties was “a very radical intervention.” Prescott had said minutes before that legislation should be considered to allow for state funding of all political parties. He was speaking during Tuesday’s debate on a private motion by Independent Senator Helen Drayton for a Joint Select Committe to be set up to prepare a legislative framework for election campaign financing.  



Prescott, a Senior Counsel, suggested that the Constitution should be amended to allow for a fund similar to the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund to be used to finance election campaigns. He told legislators it should be done to limit the influence of businessmen from financing election campaigns and subsequently making demands on the party in power. Prescott said the proposed legislation should say: “Thou shall not contribute and it shall be a criminal offence to be contributing.”


He said the political party “will find its way to the fore based on monies contributed by all of us through taxation.” He suggested that state funds “will provide for the allowances and salaries of the staff of each of these parties.” Prescott said a party with more women, disabled and young people will get more funds than others with less. Prescott also said the legislation would prohibit advertisements, testimonials and endorsements during a certain period leading up to elections. 


He said that was intended to control the messages delivered at that crucial time between nomination day and election day. He suggested an investigative commission be set up to monitor the conduct of the political parties. Saying the parties should be certified, Prescott suggested that among the penalties for breach of the legislation will be decertification of the party and ineligibility of present candidates during a national election.


According to Prescott, under the proposed measure people who were less likely to be corruptible will be elected to office. Another suggestion was that people involved in political parties “be debarred from owning or being investors or managers of media houses.” He said the measure will “ruffle some constitutional feathers because people will say we are taking away rights.” But he maintained: “There is no reason why we can’t take away the right to own the majority shares in a media house.”


He said that should also apply to the principals of the political parties as well. Another Independent Senator Ian Roach said the process to ensure election campaign financing should be hastened to ensure there was more transparency.


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