The only thing worse than junk mail is paying for your MP to send it

This is not available to 90 percent of election candidates. Their political advertisements are financed by a mix of what they can raise from public and private funds. They have no taxpayer-funded self-promotion entitlement, while the incumbent member has a choice: either spend their entitlement, which in NSW ranges from $54,030 to $151,820 depending on the size of their electorate, or take it as taxable income. on top of the $172,576 they receive as base salary.


(Ministers and other office holders receive perks, from $21,000 to $244,000, on top of their salaries.) The bottom line is that incumbents have a war chest for mailings and other advertisements before they even have to ask their party for his hand in his bag. If you were a really savvy economic manager, maybe you’d be pocketing your right instead of throwing it in the trash cans.

The racket is not partisan politics, Coalition Against Labor or vice versa. It is a racket of incumbent members who form a common vested interest against everyone else. No wonder it takes a massive popular uproar, like the federal election in May, for outsiders to fire incumbents. The challengers start the race as Stawell Gift backmarkers, one mile behind the front markers, except in this race the richest and best equipped runners start at the front and the weakest are penalized by the handicapper. Sounds a lot like life.

And yet, with such hefty benefits, incumbents choose to spend our money on their crap. Who are they targeting? Some mythical elderly voter, who is both excited to open his junk mail and prone to change his vote based on three dots and a smiley face? Show us the research that identifies such a voter, and we’ll give you a free ticket to participate in the 1960s.

That this is paid for by us, and not by them, is obviously undemocratic and a questionable use of power. But here’s the most interesting of all. If all voters agreed that if the law were changed to force the parties and not us to pay for this, which you imagine they would do, it would be run more economically and intelligently, why hasn’t such a popular change already happened?


Is it such an obvious and popular change that it somehow slips into the limelight? Is it only things that divide the community, like poker machines, that generate enough arguments to sway votes? Is the unanimous response to an old-fashioned taxpayer just a resigned shrug and an acceptance that things will always be this way?

Members are advised that they are not permitted to use their communications allowance for the production and distribution of publications they intended to distribute in any state election year from January 26 to the election date — the “blackout period.” But we’ve been in election mode for months now. They have already made ample use of the state coffers for election campaigns through the letterbox.

The following month will be a season for cheesy populist gimmicks. Daniel Andrews won the hearts of voters in Victoria by promising to remove the level crossings. Someone who promises to stop making us pay for our own junk mail can win a lot of votes for a fraction of the cost. Your mailbox could then return to the brokers and trades (although at this point you should be wondering if a trader who needs to advertise can actually do any good). I wonder if that also applies to politicians. They can at least give us a fridge magnet.

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