Flat White

Polling payday for pollies

26 April 2022

4:00 AM

26 April 2022

4:00 AM

Politics is big business in Australia. The major parties rake in stupendous amounts of donations every election cycle and have a never-ending supply of lobbyists looking to ‘grease the wheels’.

But you already knew that.

What many Australians don’t know is that the taxpayer is on the hook too … and election day is pay day if you’re one of the major parties.

When you drop your ballot paper into the box it makes barely a whisper as it disappears, but while you hear nothing, the major parties hear ‘Cha-Ching!’ as their cash register goes up by $5.84 for every person who votes for them in the Lower House and Senate. Multiply that by millions of voters and the numbers get big, fast.

That’s right, our politicians didn’t just make voting mandatory, they also legislated that they get paid every time one of those mandatory votes is for them!

This is literal cartel behaviour. They are working together and using their political power to legislate money into their own pockets using the power of the state. But it gets worse.

I made this video to explain how the major parties not only legislated to put taxpayer dollars into their own pockets, but how they also excluded the minor parties from getting a cut!

This is anti-competitive behaviour that would put anyone in the private sector in prison. Imagine if banks, supermarkets, or petrol stations tried to do the same thing? The ACCC would investigate and charges would be laid.

But for the major political parties, it’s just another day in paradise.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The problem here is that we’ve allowed and accepted conflicts of interest in politics that would never be accepted in the private sector.

And it doesn’t just stop at money.

The coins video above was actually the final video in a series where I used marbles to explain the Australian Preferential Voting. I made a video about how it works in the Lower House, showing how smart voters supporting all the freedom-friendly minor parties could use preferences to given these minor parties a shot at winning Lower House seats! I followed up with one about the Senate, showing how easy it is to get freedom-friendly Senators elected if the supporters of all the different freedom-friendly minor party voters work together and preference each other.

The videos were educational and very well received, quickly racking up over half a million views. I made them because I’m a political commentator and human rights activist. The Australian electoral and educational systems have done a terrible job of educating the public on how any of this works, so I stepped in to fill the gap.

Separately to this, I was approached for the umpteenth time by a political party (I usually get asked by three or four every election) and asked if I would run for politics myself. After much consideration, I finally said ‘yes’, after having said ‘no’ every other time over the last 12 years.

I became endorsed as the lead Senate candidate for the Liberal Democratic Party in Tasmania.


And that’s when the trouble started.

As a candidate, I drew the attention of the Australian Electoral Commission, which is tasked with administrating elections and enforcing rules and restrictions around advertising and so on. Not a particularly enviable task at the best of times!

They don’t write the rules, but they have to interpret and enforce them in the real world. It is a world not well understood by the people who wrote the rules in the first place!

You’re familiar with ‘authorisations’, right? That’s the really fast-talking bit at the end of every political ad where they tell you what you already knew, that this was an ad from a political party.

All of a sudden, because I was running as a candidate I had to have an ‘authorisation statement’ on my earlier marbles videos. It’s the law!!!

Never mind that I filmed them prior to being asked to run, and released them prior to my announcement. Never mind that I wasn’t advocating for my political party in that video, but for a group of different minor parties. Never mind that I was not paid, but did it off my own bat and in my own time. And never mind that my face, voice, and name are all over the videos, meaning that everyone knows exactly who’s behind the videos.

None of that matters because some out-of-touch idiot in Canberra wrote some rules that never imagined someone like me could exist.

With fines of nearly $30,000 and the potential for it all to escalate into jail time, there is, shall we say, a lot of incentive to comply.

The issue here is simple. If you’re a candidate or certain class of organisation and you’re publishing ‘electoral material’ (a very broad and nebulously defined concept in the legislation) then you must put an authorisation statement on everything.

And the AEC has been very on the ball this election! I’m aware of the AEC targeting Reignite Democracy Australia, Turning Point Australia, myself, and a handful of others, all people or organisations on the side of the freedom-friendly minor parties.

What I haven’t seen is the AEC targeting Zoe Daniel, whose career as an ABC journalist naturally contains enormous amounts of relevant electoral material. Will the ABC be required to add authorisation statements to articles and videos featuring Zoe Daniel as she makes politically charged comments?

No?

Funny that.

Nor do the AEC seem particularly concerned about the Labor or Liberal Parties whose social media accounts are hit-and-miss at best when it comes to including the authorisation on their videos.

What about Peter Garrett from Midnight Oil? When he ran, did Midnight Oil have to add an authorisation statement to ‘Beds are burning’ music videos posted online?

Or is it only minor parties on the side of freedom who are being watched so closely?

It’s certainly starting to feel that way.

I had to delete my Marbles videos, along with the history attached to them. All the views, comments, and the thousands of links as people shared them all over Australia gone to satisfy a bureaucratic requirement that makes no room for an independent political commentator turned candidate.

Before you ask, no I couldn’t just ‘add’ the authorisation, the internet doesn’t work that way. I would have to upload a whole new video and delete the old ones.

While others can show the world their history and body of work, and use it as a reason why voters should support them, I had to delete my body of work, or at least the most relevant parts, lest anyone see my work and decides to vote for me.

So what did I do? Well I deleted the ‘offending’ videos, and recorded a new one, which I made sure to include the authorisation statement on!

And I couldn’t help but poke some fun while I was there, have a watch to see what I did.

But the point of all this is not just to point out some flaws and inconsistencies in how minor parties and certain candidates are treated compared to others, as concerning as that is, it’s to use this as a small example of a much much bigger problem.

What’s happened to me with the AEC and Electoral Laws plays out every day in millions of ways in the lives of every Australian. The fact is that every aspect of our lives is regulated to an absurd degree, and those regulations are written by people every bit as out of touch as those who wrote these ‘authorisation’ laws. They are then enforced by one of a plethora of bureaucracies whose primary concern is covering their own ass … which makes them pedantic and risk-averse in the extreme.

Millions of people in our beautiful nation lose hours of productive time every week doing pointless paperwork or compliance checks to satisfy bureaucrats who are just covering their asses to keep their cushy jobs where they enforce these absurd dictats written by idiots in ivory towers.

By some estimates, the cost of compliance in Australia is as high as a quarter of a trillion (yes, with a ‘T’) every year. That’s people’s time and money that we’re not using to make our lives better, our businesses more productive, or just spending with our families.

So, whilst the AEC’s compliance rules may have made me lose my marbles, the burden of compliance is costing all Australians far more than that, and offering very little in return.

Unless you’re one of the bureaucrats with a cushy job or politicians with the power… They get quite a lot out of the status-quo!

Topher Field is an Australian political commentator and human rights activist best known for his internationally award winning documentary Battleground Melbourne. Topher has accepted the nomination as the Lead Senate Candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Tasmania in the upcoming Federal Election. You can follow Topher Field here. Authorised by J Humphreys for the Liberal Democratic Party. 203-205 Blackburn Rd. Mount Waverley, VIC. 3149

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