05 February 2008

Be careful what you pay for

This article suggests that you should have to pay for corflutes, junk mail, pamphlets and other bumf whether you like it or not, and whether or not you agree with the message thereon. Furthermore, if you refuse to pay for it, you are committing an offence.

Not that Aaron Gadiel has really thought about it. Gadiel is a Labor hack who's become a PR dolly, someone shunted off the track to parliament who has joined what Christian Kerr calls "the shadow government". While one can't expect Gadiel to have thought too much one shouldn't just accept what he says either, let alone devote a slab of prime media real estate to it with little discernible follow-through.
Traditionally the wider community has respected a person who makes a financial contribution to a cause they believe in. It was admirable for a gentleman or lady of means to give support to civic institutions, including political parties.

Yairs, like good old Tammany Hall and Teapot Dome. No grubbiness about donations in days of old, oh no. And hasn't the Australian Labor Party always been so moderate and temperate in its descriptions of those who contributed to their liberal and conservative opponents.

What mitigates the power of donations is political cynicism - a politician who won't keep promises to voters and taxpayers might not be bound to honour promises for which bribes donations are made.
Now, every time a donation is made, a developer, a miner, an environmentalist, a trade union, a small businessperson, a farmer or anyone else, can have their reputations tarnished by the quick conclusions of cynical individuals.

Not every time, Aaron. The whole reason why people avoid reading the Tele is to avoid hype like that. Donations are made every day and while comments are made from time to time, this is part of the rough-and-tumble of public life. Reputations do not get tarnished by cynical individuals making observations after the fact. Reputations get tarnished by cynical individuals who make donations in the hope that some direct official payback will accrue to them and theirs for doing so.
However, if they all stopped donating tomorrow, our political system would collapse.

This is the core of Gadiel's article, and it's absurd. The proposition in this article is the solution to a non-existent problem. It was here that an annoying article became a joke.
Without funds, political parties would lack the resources to present their message to the public directly.

That didn't stop the Liberal Party in 2007, and this cynical individual has already blogged about that. It will be fascinating to see what they do at the next election, without the advantage of incumbency and no apparent mitigation. Pauline Hanson shows that there is no connection between getting taxpayer funding based on electoral performance and 'getting the message out'. What would happen to public funds given to the Democrats in recent years? Would a government resist the urge to link payments to support for its agenda?

An old saying holds that half of all spending on advertising is wasted, but nobody can tell which half. When resources are scarce, the pressure is on to cut waste and maximise returns on spending. This kind of discipline can be useful in government. Taxation can have a corrosive effect on the economy if politicians view it solely as a guaranteed revenue stream. If politicians experience only upsides from spending as much as (or more than) they get, it is hard for them to seriously embrace notions of fiscal responsibility.

It is not necessarily a bad thing for a political party to experience a falloff in donations; it may even serve as a wake-up call. Doing the reverse may be cynical: I would argue that the Greens' sudden embrace of euthanasia is a way of broadening their revenue base and maintaining profile without necessarily improving public policy.
A loophole allows "political action committees" to be formed to collect contributions and pass it on to favoured candidates. Each presidential campaign typically raises around $US200 million in privately financed donations.

Despite the US ban on corporate donations American voters appear even more cynical than Australians about the integrity of their political system.

That would be the "loophole", Aaron, the pathetic hope that nobody would notice that the legislation had been subverted.
Parties should be funded by taxpayers based on their electoral performance. This would require a massive increase in the public funding of political parties.

Well, so much for that idea. I'm not going to pay for that and you aren't either. I think more money should be spent on schools, not whatever it is that Bri-Lo or Karl Bitar do.
A ban of this kind will, once and for all, remove any perception of favouritism in all areas of government decision-making, including tender processes, licensing, approvals and board appointments.

The opposite of this is true. Gadiel seriously wants the governing party to be funded by politicians of that party, as well as for them to control funding to their opponents. At the risk of being disrespectful, stuff that.
Some cynics may find it surprising that developers would back a reform of this kind.

Some cynics would find it easier to make an outrageous claim if they get away with describing all their opponents as "cynics".

Political corruption involves recycling taxpayer funds for partisan or personal gain. This proposition does not address the core issue: what do you want this money for, and what do we get in return? Whatever we get, it won't be democracy, it won't be a clearer idea of what we're voting for, and no will it be better development of an urban environment. What it will mean is more people like Aaron Gadiel, better paid and even more brazen in demanding public money for which there is no public benefit.
NSW needs developers to keep building whether political donations are made or not.

Why even bother with the funding of political parties? Why would you guarantee organisations a constant revenue stream that no private business enjoys? There has to be a reason why the Urban Taskforce has lifted its eyes from the task of developing real estate, and after reading Gadiel's piece it's not clear what it might be.

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