Why David Cunliffe is right – it is time to consider publicly funded elections


David Cunliffe is 1000% right – in the wake of the Cabinet Club scam, Maurice Williamson heaving cops for donors, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse’s house call to Chinese Businessman Donghua Liu and the Oravida corruption, it is time for NZ to seriously consider publicly funded elections.

As I pointed out last week, publicly funding political party election campaigns would remove all money influence from the political decision making process.

Currently the rules for election spending is as follows

During the three-month regulated campaign period each registered political party is limited to spending a total of $1 million. This is regardless of the size of the party. Plus, each party can spend an additional $20,000 incl GST for each individual constituency seat it contests.

An individual candidate is limited to spending $20,000, incl GST.

…so based on the current 8 parties in Parliament spending a million each plus the full $20 000 per electorate they can spend, for a total of $20million from the taxpayer, we remove big money from the political process. In the total budget of NZ, $20 million to inoculate our Democracy from big money is a price worth paying many times over.

Law God Andrew Geddis put forward the argument for publicly funded election campaigns for Political Parties in his 2007 public policy essay

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The third set of responses can be termed public assistance measures. They complement the egalitarian objective of the previous two forms of regulation by replacing the role that private (and thus unequally distributed) sources of wealth can play in the electoral process with a ‘clean’ source of funding – the general taxpayer. Further, such measures may be designed to provide funding to parties or candidates which otherwise would struggle to raise private funds, thereby enabling a greater range of voices to participate at the election. A variety of different forms of public assistance measures are available: direct payments to electoral participants on a ‘dollar-per-votes’ basis; post-election refunds of the expenses incurred in campaigning; matching donations for small, individual donations; tax credits to compensate small donors for their gift; the provision of broadcasting time or other campaign benefits to qualifying contestants.

If NZers want to minimise the corporate influence and the power of foreign investors in our political process, publicly funding elections removes the need for our MPs to have to become defacto real estate agents and holiday home repairmen for people like Donghua Liu.

You will understand what a threat to the powerful and the elites publicly funded elections is by the shrill and vicious attacks from the Right once this policy is announced.

It’s time we strengthened our Democracy against these corporate influences, it’s time to remove their power over the political process by making their money needless for elections.



  1. I hope you understand that unless you have broad cross party support and/or overwhelming public support for an idea there is no way any changes to the electoral system will be acceptable.

    • Getting broad public support shouldn’t be too hard – just have to point out that the US is now an oligarchy because of their allowing big money to buy their representatives. Continuing the way that National wants will turn us into an oligarchy as well – which is precisely what National and Act wants.

      • The only way you will get this broad party support if National perceives that people are not supporting them because of this issue. At the moment that is not the case.

        • Contrary to what the National Party thinks it’s not actually the parties that rule but the people of NZ.

          • Contrary to what you think a simple 50 plus 1 percent majority won’t be enough to change the electoral system radically without massive opposition.

  2. Spot on Bomber.
    Here’s hoping Labour will genuinely push and implement this idea and whilst doing that……..fix the anomalies of MMP (5% thresholds, etc etc).

  3. It’s absolutely fucking vital that the public fund elections ! The elections are for us , The Public after all . Not swindling business ‘ enterprises ‘ who are self-serving by their very nature . Despite the fizz and bubble of the commercials they produce and pimp out their wares they couldn’t give a shit if we all died in our tracks so long as they could go through our pockets before we were buried .
    Excellent Post .

    Oh . Before I forget . Fuck you Gosman . Your doubt spreading confederate-esque undermining is as welcome as cancer .

  4. so based on the current 8 parties in Parliament spending a million each plus the full $20 000 per electorate they can spend, for a total of $20million from the taxpayer, we remove big money from the political process.

    The problem with that calculation is that there’s more than 8 political parties and they would all have to be equally funded. That would mean $31.2m in total funding. Still, it’s peanuts to get rid of big money from our political system.

    And, yes, each party has to be funded the same amount so as to ensure a level playing field.

  5. Actually, that’s only talking about the electioneering period. We’d also have to look at funding them permanently at a million or two per year each with the electioneering period being on top of that. Still worth it though.

  6. The only reason the Labour are running this arguement is that they have slowly but surely reduced the size of their membership over the last 20 or 30 years – and with that goes money.

    They have done this by ignoring the section of society that used to support them – essentially working class; and migrating into a party of theorists and identity politcians. And not a lot of people see that sort of change as being desirable.
    Needless to say the guy that has done most to damage New Zealand – Roger Douglas – was the start of this process, it could have been halted – but wasnt.

    Now – there is the arguement that its desiarble for public money to be used in the interest of active democracy. But we can see how that model works in the US – it just enables other money to be used for programmes. The thinking that this will limit spending is naive.
    Also – it wont make any difference to the status of labour – as most people see it as the ‘one of each’ party – Gay, lesbian, transgender, physically challenged, mentally challenged ,maori, asian, – oh – and normal, etc. The propossed ‘Man Ban’ for candidates would have just made it less attractive.

  7. I kind of think this may be necessary, about the worst thing I can think to say against it, is that it could cause boring electioneering.
    At the very, very least only individuals who are eligible to vote should be able to legally donate, as I think the most rotten money to come into the coffers of political parties is corporate and I suppose having said that I would have to say that Union money would fall into the same category.
    Instinctively, you can tell whose money seeks to serve the donor (Donghua Liu etc) and whose money has a more altruistic intent (Phillip Mills) but it is far too difficult to put that into legal words, so maybe just publicly fund it.
    Perhaps tin rattling donation seeking might be okay where people can chuck in the $5-$10 if they wish, or maybe if people get more politically involved then having a subscription to the party or parties you wish to support is okay, so long as the subscription represents an amount that most people could maybe find a few extra bucks for if they wish to do so.
    Whatever we do, we surely have to cease having big money and its influence in the political arena, as the government is all of ours, not just those who have the cash

  8. If there is public funding of political parties, will this stop union funding of the Labour Party? What about Union funding of other political ’causes’, such as the living wage campaign? Will that have to stop as well?

  9. It is actually a good idea because it creates a level playing field. National is seriously disadvantaged if it has to fight fair and thats why it hates it.

    • nah its taking the easy way out – one party is good at fundraising within the allowable rules and the other is lousy in the sense that they have nothing to offer to attract prospective donees

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