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Taxpayers’ Union confused on political party funding

6 Oct 2021

by Chris Leitch, Leader

The Taxpayers’ Union claim that taxpayers should not be forced to fund political parties shows it has little understanding of how much public funding already flows into the pockets of political parties in Parliament.

By opposing the review it is arguing for maintenance of the flawed system we already have that confers a massive advantage on the incumbents.

Millions of dollars of taxpayer funding for political parties happens now and the way that funding is allocated substantially skews our democracy in favour of the incumbents.

The broadcasting allocation for the 2020 election was $4,145,750 including GST. National and Labour got $2.58 million of that with the Greens and NZ First $323,000 each. [See Broadcasting Allocation 2020]

In addition to taxpayer money for broadcasting, the publicly funded Parliamentary Service provides around $50 million each year for research and media staff, newsletters, focus groups, surveys, advertising, travel, accommodation and a plethora of other services – many of which are used by parliamentary parties to build their public profile.

At least the Taxpayers’ Union got that one right saying “elected political parties already have a massive advantage over political outsiders thanks to their Parliamentary funding”.

At the launch of her book 'Promises Promises - 80 years of wooing New Zealand voters' at the National Library in Wellington in September 2020, Massey University professor of communication design Claire Robinson pointed out that the committee of parliament that allocates public money to parties for election broadcasting is dominated by National and Labour and they allocate themselves the vast majority of the money.

Professor Robinson said "Not only do they gift themselves a war chest from public funds but they also have substantial sums donated by big business and wealthy individuals”,.

"This confers on them a massive advantage to be able to retain the dominant position they already have in New Zealand's political landscape."

The Taxpayers’ Union claim that reaching out to political parties for ideas on the review announced yesterday will see “elected political parties that have a vested interest cementing their place in Parliament and maximising their revenue” is too late – that horse has already bolted.

Professor Robinson said she thinks the allocation of public broadcasting funds should be turned on its head so that the smaller parties got the funding they needed to provide people with the information on which to base an informed vote.

As she pointed "New ideas don't come from the centre where National and Labour reside but from the margins which are the home of the smaller parties."

Instead of arguing against the review, the Taxpayers’ Union should be supporting it,  putting a case for restrictions on big business donations which already “reduce the incentive [for parties] to act according to their members’ values”, and for fairness, especially for political parties outside parliament

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