Just for fun, a colleague and I trawled through the electoral expenses declared by Hamilton city council candidates in 2016. One thing was clear. It’s a rich mans game. Literally. Only 20% of the players are women and the average election spend is $5000. That’s $5000 you’ll need to put on the table to play. It’s a months income for most homes in Hamilton. Do you have that much to lose? I don’t. It means not everyone can play, and the outcome contributes to an out of touch council.
With my rough calculation, given the number of candidates who put their name forward there is a 20% chance being elected. Can your household risk that money if you don’t get in? When I think of the average Hamiltonian statistically, they are in their 30’s with a young family and more focused on making sure they can eat, pay the rent and buy school uniforms. It’s hard to justify gambling thousands even if you had access to it. Why am I likening an election campaign to gambling? Well, because when you look at candidates, and the results – there is a huge element of luck, and no clear way of knowing who will win a seat. Does it matter if only those with money can afford to put their name forward? Of course it does. How well can elected members represent residents if the life they live is so different to the people they make decisions for? If you can risk thousands as a candidate, and if successful are then on a $70,000 a year job – you might quickly forget what its like to struggle to find the money for bills. Enter a 9% increase to our rates bill. That decision ignores the reality for most Hamiltonians. If I hear one more councillor tell me rates are good value, compared to the same we pay for electricity I’ll lose my mind. All I care about is that I now have less money for other bills, probably food. It’s an example of elected members being out of touch. The limits for election spending are based on population. For Hamilton West it’s $40,000 for Hamilton East $50,000, the mayoralty is $60,000.
We need Councillors from all walks of life. The spending limits set by central government for elections need to be decreased.
- Of course there are examples of candidates who didn’t spend that much. Max Coyle was very close, paying only the $200 nomination fee. James Casson, spent $700 and was successful. Geoff Taylor was a big spender at $32,000.