After yesterday’s disastrous electoral result, one decision of the former Queensland Labor government is looking good, at least from their perspective. This was the change to the public election campaign funding regime.
Previously Queensland, like other jurisdictions, had a pay-per-vote system of election public funding (about $1.65 per vote in the QLD case). In the reforms legislated last year, this was changed to a system of reimbursement, up to a maximum of about $5.3 million. The formula works like this:
All of the first 10% of electoral expenditure
75% of the next 80% of electoral expenditure
50% of the remaining 10% of electoral expenditure
I’m not sure how much Queensland Labor spent this time around, but presumably they will walk away with several million dollars in public funding, while the old system would have netted them $1.2 million on yesterday’s vote.
The main argument for the new system is that it introduces a counter-cyclical element to the system. With donations tending to follow popular support, parties on the downward part of their cycle are dealt a double blow. This system of public funding lets them mount a decent-sized campaign (I’m not sure how big the Queensland Greens or Katter Party campaigns were, but this system also helps small parties, provided they reach a 4% threshold).
However, as the NSW and QLD elections demonstrate there is only so much money can do. From a campaign finance theory perspective, each campaign was a fairer and more even contest than it might otherwise have been. But that did not stop two of the biggest defeats in Australian electoral history.