A government plan to hand out tens of millions of dollars in taxpayers money for the administrative costs of political parties has been bitterly attacked by highly-respected former minister John Faulkner.
Under the plan, about $58 million would be delivered to the parties over the budget years – on top of the public funding they already get for elections.
They – and independents who are elected – would be paid the equivalent of a dollar a year for every vote they get. The funding would start on July 1 and be indexed.
As part of the package the amount at which donations have to be disclosed would be set at $5000, compared with more than $12,000 at present. This compares with the $1000 disclosure level that Labor had previously urged.
Senator Faulkner, who as special minister of state brought the original tougher disclosure legislation to parliament, which was never passed, lashed out at the plan when it went to a caucus committee today. Other caucus committee members also criticised the plan, put to them by Special Minister of State Mark Dreyfus but negotiated by his predecessor in the portfolio Gary Gray.
Senator Faulkner argued that it was a sellout, and that it was completely unacceptable to be handing out public money for party administration without putting any cap on other revenue coming to them. There was no public policy benefit, he said.
It is believed that one argument being put to caucus members is that Labor desperately needs the money.
The plan has to go to full caucus, where it is likely to be accepted but is expected to provoke fresh criticism.