It has recently been revealed, again, that the names of people or organisations who made the most donations to all federal political parties remain secret. This time the amount revealed as coming from secret donors was $62 million, which is a fairly large amount, to say the least. The way the identity of the sources of these donations is kept secret, is either by cutting the donations up into smaller chunks to keep each under the reporting threshold of $13,500 for individual donations, or more effectively, by donating them to an intermediate entity1. One of the most effective intermediate entities was The Millennium Forum, which was set up by former treasurer of the Liberal Party, Michael Yabsley. This organisation was extremely successful in raising millions for the Liberal Party. There are numerous other organisations that were similarly used to launder money for political parties. These include the Wentworth Forum2, the North Sydney Forum3, and the Cormack Foundation4, among others. Commonly donors seek access to a politician for a particular donation1.
Michael Yabsley has again come out stating that the system is what he calls “soft corruption” and which he believes is not a “good look”. He has called for donations to be capped at $5001,2, and that these should be only from Australian citizens2, and no other entities. This is akin to something I have stated before4. I believe that donations should only be accepted from individual Australian citizens; they should be capped at $1,000 per donation and an annual maximum of $5,000 per donor. All donation details should be made public in real time and no anonymity would be permitted5. If you aren’t prepared to have your support for a political party made public, then you should not be able to donate money to it. This does not get around the possibility of a corporation or other entity giving its staff or members an amount of money to be donated to a particular political party. That could be difficult to prevent, but if uncovered, it should be dealt with in the same was as a case of bribery.
In addition, politicians should not be allowed to buy their way into parliament, as Malcolm Turnbull effectively did for the 2016 federal election6. This is to prevent any of our current oligarchs deciding that instead of buying politicians, they can buy a seat in parliament themselves; which is probably where we will be heading, unless we do something to prevent it.
There shebe no provision for donations under any circumstances. Any guidelines will be circumvented, consequently only a total ban with draconian penalties for malpractice will ensure corruption is not possible.
There will always be people willing to pervert the system for their own ends; prohibition has shown that to be the case. I admit it is a difficult problem.
I strongly agree that if political donations are to be allowed, then they should be transparent and capped to help reduce their potential for corruption. But I wonder about the need to restrict donations to individuals. This would, for example, presumably prevent donations by unions to the ALP which would probably cripple the party’s finances.
In terms of corrupting influences: are donations by unions to be seen as equivalent to donations by corporations? Does it come down to a question of “who benefits from the actions of the political party” that is being supported – in general terms?
Personally, I think that the best way all-round would be to ban all political donations and fund the election campaigns of would-be parliamentary aspirants entirely from the public purse. Just see this (substantial) outlay as one of the costs of running a democracy.
Capping all donations and restricting it to individual citizens would cripple all parties to the same degree. If people want to contribute to a political party, that should be their right, but I wish to make it impossible for anyone to buy favours or influence because they are cashed up. It would also decrease the amount the taxpayer would have to contribute to political parties they do not support.
The French system for running elections seems to be a major improvement over what we have in Australia.
“Official electoral campaigns in France are very brief. Campaign finance is strictly regulated. All forms of paid commercial advertisements through the press or by any audiovisual means are prohibited during the three months preceding the election. Instead, political advertisements are aired free of charge on an equal basis for all of the candidates on national television channels and radio stations during the official campaign. Campaign donations and expenditures are capped. Candidates must appoint an independent financial representative to handle all their financial matters relating to the election. Campaign accounts are audited by a special commission. Candidates whose campaign accounts are certified may be reimbursed up to 50 percent of their expenses by the state if they meet certain conditions”.
Excerpt from the “Library of Congress Law Library: https://www.loc.gov/law/help/campaign-finance/france.php
Systems used in other countries are irrelevant in in Australia. All arms of government including the High Court are corrupt to the core, separation of powers is shambolic, all watchdogs are farcical, accountability and transparency are non-existent, and the powers that be have considerable expertise in covering their backsides and avoiding any possible review of their antics. Judicial review was effectively abolished years ago, the legal profession has ensured that private prosecutions of officialdom are well beyond the financial capacity of regular folk..To add insult to injury, the powers that be use a different dictionary to the rest of us, in which ‘independent’ means a selection of drones known to be subservient to those who selected them.
That sounds sensible; might be worth chasing up.
It is less likely to be a problem if the guidelines are so simple that even a corrupt / duplicitious politician / lawyer can misconstrue them. No donations under any circumstances is difficult to bend / distort / twist to say donations from some sources are fine.
I vehemently disagree with any provision to permit political donations as it is inevitable that even the smallest loophole will be exploited. We’ve seen a litany of instances in which politicians, bureaucrats, the judiciary and the legal fraternity deliberately misrepresent the intent of guidelines. These grubs have ably demonstrated they are not trustworthy, hence the need for an extremely hard-line approach which cannot possibly be misconstrued or distorted to mean something other than the plain text meaning. ‘Terms like ‘transparency’ and ‘capped’ are wide open to distortion by legal minds who have spent a lifetime learning how to read ‘black’ as ‘white’. Consider for example the widespread practice of ‘misreading / misunderstanding’ rules / guidelines regarding perks / travel / junkets. If the rules / guidelines said categorically that perks / travel / junkets are expressly verboten full stop, that is well nigh impossible to turn into ‘ I didn’t understand’. I am absolutely ropable about ‘I didn’t understand’ as the masses are constantly told ‘ignorance is no excuse’. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. All the aforementioned grubs have completely lost any semblance of credibility and if the criminal enterprises trading as political parties are crippled as a result of their own past shenanigans then so be it. I have absolutely no sympathy or respect for any politician, bureaucrat or member of the legal / judicial racket. Note particularly that I am not singling out any individual or party, the issue is endemic to **ALL** political parties, **ALL** bureaucrats, and **ALL** members of the legal / judicial racket.