Leigh examines the discretionary allocation of funding to different electorates under four different programs (Roads to Recovery, Stronger Families and Communities, Sustainable Regions and Regional Partnerships*)
Points made include:
- Allocation of funding is “strongly skewed” to coalition seats (no surprises), but more money is spent in seats held by the Nat than the Libs. This is a conclusion is unlikely to change, given the announcement of a further $1 billion to the Roads to Recovery program. There is also further funding in the pipeline for strategic roads linking rural industries and ports. The regressions in Leigh’s paper make you wonder what they mean by “strategic”.
- Greater political capital may be gained from funding expenditure in smaller quanta — “more bang for your buck, so to speak”). This is a strategy shown by the fact that the Coalition partners receive a greater number of grants, even when controlling for the overall level of funding.
- Somewhat counterintuitively, grant allocation does not appear to be specifically targeted at marginal seats. For me, this suggests that there might be two things going on here — faithful voters are receiving a payoff after 10 years in government, whilst the Coalition is also seeking to shore up it’s standing in marginal seats. The payoff idea is supported by this example of an allocation of nearly $14,000 for a federal MP’s driveway. No prizes for guessing he is not a Labor MP (more on this fine public figure here).
- The money shot is that the ‘cost’ of an Australian vote around A$20,234 and A$3281. This is in comparison to Levitt and Snyder’s estimate of around A$22,000 for an American vote. It was pointed out in the seminar, that this cost is not too bad, given that the American is likely to be more expensive given the non-compulsory nature of the voting system.
* Apparently he constructed the database for these funding programs by trawling through Senate Estimates transcripts. Ouch.