LNP State Council in Cairns
The best parts of this State Council happened in the closed session… so if you want to know the good stuff in the future you should join the party and come along to our meetings. :p
But given that the open sessions are called “open” I assume I’m allowed to talk about them. First, it was a good weekend, helped significantly by being in fun-filled Cairns. That meant it cost a bit more money, but it also meant I got to run into a few people who I otherwise wouldn’t have met (hi Jake & thanks for the scotch) and got to visit a few new streets & pubs.
There were various talks and presentations and reports… but my primary interest was in the motions for debate. Wisely, the council was positive about optional preferential voting, doing a benefit-cost analysis of the NBN, reviewing the sustainability of underground water resources and devolving school administration to the local level. All good stuff. I was also pleased that Council rejected a few motions calling for more subsidies & spending. It is very tempting for any political party to promise handouts for everybody and everything, but responsible economic management means keeping spending promises to a minimum.I had my first opportunity to contribute to the policy debate, but as it was during the closed session I won’t give details.
Policy issues aside, these events are often just as much about the people you meet. I was pleased to find a fair few people agreeing with my subtle jibes about the need to us to rediscover “small government”. I ran into some people I hadn’t met in a long time, and got a chance to swap ideas with a few people I hadn’t met before. While there will always be disagreements, there was also many opportunities for agreement on a range of different issues. Though I was left quite confused when one young activist accused me of being too left-wing because I was opposed to higher tax & welfare.
That strange incident aside, there was one major issue from the weekend that I must disagree with. Our State parliamentary leader announced a range of reforms which included many sensible measures (political honesty, greater accountability, voter identification, electronic voting), but it also included a cap on campaign spending, including the spending of 3rd parties. I disagree with this both on principle and on practical grounds.
The principle in question is that of “free speech”… that people should be able to say what they think without fear of the government silencing them. If some idiot wants to spend millions of their own money telling me their opinion on the spotted Bolivian owl or any other issue, they should be free to do so.
But further, on pragmatic grounds I can’t see how a restriction on campaign spending can work. How will they account volunteer work vis-a-vis paid work? What about buying products at “mates rates”? What about 3rd party campaigns that are totally out of the control of the party? Does this cover discussion of issues, even when there is no mention of a political party? For State campaigns, how can you prevent out-of-state activists entering the discussion? And given that incumbents get an advantage due to their incumbency, then forcing equal spending actually gives incumbents an unfair advantage. As with the debate on political financing in America, I doubt whether this reform is either feasible or desirable.
My preferred reform would be to remove public funding of political parties, introduce voluntary voting, and allow free speech… but that’s just me.
But in the grander scheme of things, there were many more positives from the weekend than negatives. JP continues to grow as a leader and the party is coming together cohesively as a unit with increased maturity and momentum. The occasional media I hear about LNP disunity doesn’t match what I see in practice, where people with a wide range of views are working well together with a common purpose.