I believe there are many people in the community who would make for very good representatives of the people if they could find a way to be elected to parliament. The cost of registering as an independent candidate is not huge – currently just $250 – but the cost of running a campaign against the financial might of the major parties is another thing.
Advertising in the lead up to the 2017 WA election has been going on for some time, and costs a lot of money, which independent candidates are unlikely to have at their disposal. Media coverage is often centred on the main parties, with little or no cover for anyone else.
If a public servant wants to stand as a candidate that person has to resign from his/her current job to be eligible, though anyone in another profession can either continue in that role, depending on how active the person needs to be, or just take paid leave. Sitting members of parliament can campaign while being paid as a parliamentarian, so there is a great disincentive for those on the inside of government to stand as candidates, even if they are supported by one of the major parties.
I believe it is in the public interest to minimise the amount political parties can spend and to provide support for independent candidates so that they are able to compete on a roughly equal footing with the parties. I also believe that ALL candidates should either be able to maintain their income through the election period, only being required to resign from a current position if they are elected, or should be required to be without income from an employer for the whole of the election period.
When promises are made regarding action which it is claimed will be taken in government they are quite often forgotten after the election. Parties knowing that there is little likelihood of gaining an electoral victory often use the opportunity to push projects which have no hope of being funded, but which have popular appeal amongst electors. This approach is dishonest and should be stopped. The response after an opposition party wins government, to blame the outgoing party for finances being worse than expected, as an excuse for not honouring their promises is also a well-trodden path with no credibility.
I will push strongly for:
● strict limits on spending for political purposes ahead of, and during, an election period so that independent candidates are not fighting against vote-buying tactics used by the major parties;
● all candidates to be in the same position with respect to employment income during an election campaign, be that no employment income or being paid their normal wage during the campaign;
● costing of promises ahead of an election be subject to scrutiny to avoid an opposition party being able to claim afterwards that finances were worse than expected so some promises cannot be met.
Authorised by Steven Secker