Victorians have just spent a weekend dodging creepy political types wielding how to vote cards, and paying for our public buildings to be covered with all manner of expensive, paper-wasting party advertising garbage.
Not the best illustration: I wish I’d taken a shot of our booth, with a tiny entrance festooned with party garbage, and a swarm of volunteers from the bigger parties. The Liberals had up to three or four people handing out for them at various points of the day.
And I think I speak for most of us who aren’t advocates for the two big parties who have the most public money to spend on this rort to give them an advantage over non-incumbent and smaller parties, when I ask is this necessary?
It’s obviously necessary for each party to play the game when all the other parties are doing it – it’s an advertising arms race. If one party gets wraparound bunting, the other party has to splurge on it too – if it can afford to. And whether it can afford to depends on whether it has the funding benefit of incumbency, in which the public pays for a large chunk of it – or whether it has backers with plenty of disposable cash who’ll stump up out of self-interest.
So it’s a system that gives a massive advantage to the wealthy and incumbent.
But what if we adopted an exclusion zone on election day, keeping punters safe from being harassed by expensive political crap for which they happen to have been forced to pay?
In the ACT and Tasmania, you’re not permitted to canvas for votes from electors within 100m of the polling place. I gather, but my French isn’t good enough to confirm (desolee, mes cheries), that it’s even further in France.
Now, it could be argued that it sounds suspiciously like undemocratic censorship to apply any restrictions at all to the full and frank expression of political views. Who is the electoral commission to be telling those who would be our elected representatives what they can and can’t say on the day on which we choose between them?
Well, I’m not suggesting it should. I’m suggesting we should demand that our parliament pass exclusion zones around polling places on our behalf, and for one very good reason: this kind of speech is very far from free. It actually undermines real free speech, and democracy, and replaces it with a destructive and very expensive advertising arms race which serves only to lock in the powerful and rule out their competitors. It makes the barriers to entry, to use a market term, unmanageably high, thereby robbing us as voters of a decent choice of candidates.
I think it’s time we, to quote the Liberal Party, stopped the waste.