The Debate: Campaign Spending

Should campaign spending be capped after Malcolm Turnbull’s $600,000 Wentworth win?

NO: Limitations on the amount of money spent on election campaigns and the way it is spent do not create the egalitarian political landscape that their supporters claim.

There is considerable evidence to suggest that spending caps reduce the competitiveness in electoral races and work against challengers and in favour of the incumbents.

Incumbents are already well known throughout their electorates and their positions clearly defined, in part, because of past spending but most importantly, because they hold the keys to the public treasury.

Incumbents are able to use their positions to gain financial and promotional advantages that their challengers are not.

Spending caps don’t work. Experience shows us that spending goes underground.

Soft money raised by unions, political action committees and other ill-defined lobby groups — nominally independent of political parties but in reality closely aligned — has just as much influence on the electoral process than any money collected by the parties or politicians themselves.

Chris Berg is the director of communications for the Institute of Public Affairs