'Election campaign funds 'cartel' benefits major parties'

A POLITICAL finance expert says it is high time the federal parliamentary entitlements system was fixed up.

Melbourne Law School Associate Professor Joo-Cheong Tham has examined the politicians' entitlements system and its use in campaigns over many years.

"I consider this a form of corruption, it's a corruption of the democratic system," he said.

"I start from general democratic principles. An important principle is that public resources are used for public good and because these are only available to sitting parliamentarians it's also quite unfair."

Prof Tham also said the major parties had a "mutual interest" in using such entitlements and it was "very difficult to get public debate going on".

"This is where our system fails because our system allows for a conspiracy of silence, and we can see basically a system of mutual benefit or a cartelised system is emerging," he said.

Prof Tham said given the "contest" of elections, if a large number of politicians were using the entitlement for campaigning, "it can pressure other MPs into using that entitlement for campaign purposes".

"It's impossible to be conclusive until we know the material that has been used - but (the data shows) there is a strong suggestion that this is a big problem," he said.

"We've gone through quite a number of reviews and so on; I think it's high time for the system to be fixed up."