Taxpayer funding of political parties has raised its ugly head again:
“The Greens are cynically taking advantage of this week’s political scandal to push their agenda of taxpayer funding for political parties,” says New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke, responding to Marama Davidson’s statement today.
“Introducing ‘state money for electioneering’ (which is currently illegal) will only entrench the position of incumbent political parties like the Greens, and suppress political start-ups that could challenge existing powers.”
It will also further erode grassroots participation in the political process and reduce the importance of party membership.
“We must not replace the right to independently, privately fundraise with a system where unaccountable bureaucrats decide what makes political groups eligible for funds.”
“Finally, there’s the powerful moral argument that taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to promote ideas that they disagree with or even find morally reprehensible.”
“The proposal is opportunistic, self-interested, objectionable, and would have a corrosive effect on our democracy.”
Amen to that.
If parties can’t attract enough members and supporters to fund themselves the solution isn’t taxpayer funding.
It is sadly ironic that MMP which gives parties far more power has coincided with a serious decline in party membership and participation.
Other parties, and some media, question National’s fundraising. They either don’t understand, or ignore, the fact that the bulk of the money the party gets comes from members through subscriptions and relatively small fundraising activities.
That’s a very real strength of strong membership.
However, like every other party, and most if not all voluntary organisations, National’s membership is well below its peak. That, and the inability of any other party in the country to count its members in the 10s of thousands is a very real risk to democracy.
Democracy by definition should be participatory and strong participation is the best protection from corruption.