16 Jun. 2006

New federal election laws

The Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Bill 2006 is being pushed through the federal senate by the Coalition federal government.

Here's the gist:

  • More donations to political parties to be tax free;
  • Higher burden of proof on and more restrictive time frame for registering to vote;
  • All prisoners to be disenfranchised;
  • Large increase (from $1500 to $10000) in the amount that can be secretly donated to a political party.

    In the senate debate, opposition senators are being quite good right now at lambasting this legislation. However, they're doing it from their own perspective, which means complaining about the unfairness of this legislation in disadvantaging them by disproportionately affecting the more left-wing parties, with their poorer base. But this isn't really true, because political parties can and do shift to the right in order to account for changes in the composition of the electorate. Rather, the main effect is to shift the whole of Australian domestic politics towards the right, which is to say, towards the interests of the rich. Every single one of these measures removes political influence from the poor and hands it to the rich, and effect compounded by the deliberate widening of the economic gap between rich and poor in recent years.

    The opposition lays down a smokescreen of evident hypocrisy over this. They claim that the bill is party political, a matter of Liberal 'self-interest', a corruption of the 'good system'—good of course in the sense that it feathered the nests of these politicians. The opposition advocate changes not out of a deep egalitarianism, so much as out of their own self-interest, demanding fixed parliamentary terms (a demand which is purely meant to reduce the advantages of incumbency), that prisoners have the vote, that secret donations be eliminated (too right, but only demanded because Labor know that their voters are poorer and disadvantaged, every bit as much as the Liberals know that theirs are richer).The real story is
    current ascendency of the cpaitalist class in the class war, not
    simply the Liberals' 'self-interest'—are they really suggesting
    that political parties can or should put normative considerations of
    fairness above strategy?

    A more interesting reading was produced by a Labor senator who claimed that in fact party-line voting doesn't break down along these traditional class lines anymore. This is a false claim, but it was instructive in that it allowed her to make a direct and bipartisan appeal that the disenfranchisement is 'bad for the electoral system'. This is to say, that undermining the legitimacy of the electoral system is bad for the whole political game. Let's hope so.