Canberra Report: Public funding a common aspect

Among other things, each Australian election creates stories about the public funding of elections and its merits.

Public funding is available for candidates and parties in federal elections who receive more than four per cent of the total vote in their electorate. In the case of House of Representatives contests, that's around 4800 votes. The amount is CPI-indexed and calculated every six months. Currently the amount is $2.74 per formal first preference vote (July 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018).

So in the recent election I received 33,331 primary votes. Wow you might say, Joel Fitzgibbon picked up a cool $91,000. Sounds good but no, that's not right. The taxpayers' money attributed to my vote goes to the Australian Labor Party, it's part of the contract I signed when I agreed to be a Labor candidate. The Party in-turn uses the money to fund its messaging - advertisements etc - throughout the course of the campaign. I can't speak for other political parties as each has its own arrangements.

Public funding for elections is common around the world. It helps prevent the development of an electoral system available only to the wealthy and reduces a reliance on private donations.

There is no shortage of literature on the strengths and weaknesses of public election funding but on balance, I believe it to be a good thing which strengthens our democracy by giving all citizens - regardless of their wealth or connections - a better chance to run if they so wish.


The Queensland Government finally granted approval for the Adani coal mine last week. Never before has one mine project been so shrouded in controversy.

This is despite the fact that there is nothing particularly remarkable about the proposed Central Queensland coal mine.

Rather, environmental activists decided to make the proposed mine an iconic development in their campaign to bring coal mining in Australia to an end. That decision in-turn caused the approvals processes in both Canberra and Brisbane to become ridiculously protracted and messy. I hope lessons have been learned.

Our coal won't always be valuable. Over time our overseas customers will switch to new sources of energy, some of which have not yet been invented or developed. So where we can do so without harm to our natural environment we should mine it and sell it while it has value and use the wealth it provides to ready ourselves for the time in the decades to come when it is no longer in demand.

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