Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Attorney General George Brandis and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann announced changes to the laws covering foreign donations and foreign interference, in an attempt both to demonise Senator Sam Dastyari, and to try to distract the media from the citizenship shambles and the government’s unprincipled stance on it, both of which are currently driving the government further down into a stinking heap of ordure.
Soon after making the announcement, Turnbull hammered Dastyari in Parliament, saying that Dastyari “sold Australia out” “for a few thousand dollars”1. This referred to Huang Xiangmo’s donation of $5,000 to Dastyari for payment of a legal bill. It is hard to imagine a more hypocritical stance from a government given that the same Chinese national donated $770,000 to the Liberal Party prior to the 2013 election, and $100,000 to Andrew Robb, then Trade Minister, as Robb signed off on the China Australia Free Trade Agreement2.
The new laws will create an offence of ‘covertly or maliciously influencing a political process or government decision in a way that harms Australia’s interests’1.
Of the three, Cormann stated that the foreign ban will be introduced to the Senate in the next few days, but then laughably added that only Australian businesses and organisations should be able to influence Australian elections through political donations, seemingly unaware that this is part of the problem in the political donations culture2. He is seemingly also oblivious to the single biggest flaw in this proposed legislation. All an overseas business has to do is to establish a local company registered with ASIC and they can quite happily continue to purchase politicians. This has already happened3,4.
The laws will ban foreign donations to activist organisations such as GetUp as well as political parties themselves. Maybe the government believes all the right-wing nut job conspiracy theories that GetUp is funded largely by the malevolence of George Soros or the Saudis or the Russians, or whoever else is the current bugbear of the right. This will not be a problem for GetUp, as, over the last decade or more the amount of funding from overseas has amounted to less than 0.6% of its total5. So, this will hardly make a dent in GetUp’s rapidly growing income, because GetUp is funded almost entirely by citizens like me.
As I have said before, the only way to make sure that politicians care more for the people than their donors is to only allow citizens to donate to political parties, and to cap their donations to a relatively small amount, say $1,000 per donation, and $5,000 per annum2. This will stop foreign donations entirely, even from Trojan Horse companies registered with ASIC, and it will also stop people like Gina Rinehart purchasing politicians such as Barnaby Joyce.