Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during his visit to the Sunshine Coast.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during his visit to the Sunshine Coast. Lachlan Thompson

This story might make you a little angry...

THERE'S a good reason political parties don't officially launch their election campaigns until they are nearly over and it's not one you will like.

It's contained in advice obtained by the Daily from the Department of Finance, which regulates members of parliaments' entitlements.

Put simply it is this: "By convention, Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Opposition Office Holders and Leaders of a Minority Party (Office Holders) do not claim travelling allowance from the day of their respective Party's campaign launch to the day after polling day".

In other words, it's hoped you have enjoyed the visits from the plethora of heavyweights coursing through the Sunshine Coast from the Prime Minister to assorted ministers, parliamentary secretaries, Opposition shadow ministers and minor party leaders because you have been paying for them to be here.

Through some sort of unspoken mutual agreement no party has resisted the opportunity presented by the "convention" to instead take the high moral ground and pay its own way.

So even though the election process officially started when Malcolm Turnbull visited the Governor General on May 9 to declare a double dissolution election and effectively for Labor with Bill Shorten's Budget reply speech - which sounded exactly how you would expect a campaign launch to start - the real deal is yet to kick off.

For Labor that happens on Sunday in the marginal Liberal seat of Lindsay in the Sydney suburb of Penrith.

The Liberal Party is yet to announce a date for its launch, which is expected to also be in Sydney.

Professor of Law at the University of Queensland and author of Australian Electoral Systems: How Well do they Serve Political Equality, Graeme Orr, said elections were meant to provide a period of "deliberative equality" that should not see smaller candidates driven out.

Prof Orr said the issue was about fairness more than money although parties could say that even in caretaker mode they have obligations and duties during a campaign, exampled by Orlando vigils and support for flooded communities which it would be unfair to have them pay.

He said full public funding of candidates would be difficult to implement and would need to be capped.

Public funding could also lead to political parties deciding they required fewer members. They would still be reliant on donations to fund the apparatus and policy development.

Prof Orr said political parties were relying less on a "big moment" campaign launch and increasingly on more targeted campaigning learnt from the US experience as well as strategies of business branding.

The trend that has seen pre-polling become a significant proportion of the total vote will require changes in the way candidates campaign and also increase the demand for human resources to be rostered onto polling places over a longer period of time.
 


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