NSW Libs in ‘cynical attempt’ to restrict their political opponents?

In a rare case of good timing, my Policy article critiquing restrictions on third-party political rights went online on the same day that the NSW government introduced a draconian new bill further attacking third parties.

Under current NSW law, political parties can spend $9.3 million on their state election campaigns if they contest all Legislative Assembly seats, and third parties (organisations or individuals participating in politics but not standing for office) can spend up to $1.05 million. Third parties are caught by the law if they promote or oppose, either indirectly or directly, the election of a party or candidate, or influence, directly or indirectly, voting at an election.

In a law clearly aimed at limiting union power, the political expenditure of a third party affiliated to a political party is included in the political party’s cap. With some justification, Unions NSW describe this as a “cynical attempt … to silence the political voice of working people”.

The way I read the amendment, the ALP will be guilty of an offence if the spending of one or more of its affiliated unions pushes the collective union/ALP spend over $9.3 million. Yet presumably the ALP cannot control the unions. To take an example from the previous NSW Labor government, if Unions NSW campaigned against electricity privatisation during the restricted campaign period (from 1 October the year before the election) not only would the Labor Party have an unhelpful campaign, they could also be punished for something that did not do and did not want. Read More »