Failed liberal candidate, Dave Sharma’s posters, plastered up all over the Wentworth electorate, are standard conservative drivel, with his name at the top, a photo of him and, in finer print, the lies: “A stronger economy. A secure future”. Someone had put up a Greenpeace poster above that of Sharma’s, which had an image of a hand with strings around the top joint of each finger. Around this, the text read: “The coal lobby is pulling the strings”1. This explains all you really need to know about what is wrong with Australian politics.
The Coalition parties are so beholden to their donors, that nobody else matters; not nurses, teachers, coppers, shop assistants, child-care workers, aged-care workers, self-funded retirees, pensioners, gardeners, public servants or anyone else that isn’t on an exorbitant salary. The only people that matter to the Coalition are people with deep pockets, who want to purchase favours.
One of the independent candidates, Dr Kerryn Phelps has, as one of her policies to tackle climate change, to “Ban political donations by fossil fuel companies and establish a register to force all Senators and Members to disclose meetings with fossil fuel companies and their lobbyists.”2 While this is to be applauded, it only addresses one aspect of the problem and that problem is all corporate money in politics. Corporations are solely driven by their bottom line and to think that they donate money to political parties for the benefit of Australian democracy is the height of delusion. They do it solely to attempt to buy favours, either legislative or regulatory. This is why this government has been so keen to shovel money to the wealthy and their corporations, while hammering the lowly paid and those on welfare3.
All corporate money needs to be removed from politics. If political donations are to be acceptable, and some people think that no donations should be allowed, they must only come from individual Australian citizens. If they are to be accepted, they must be capped at a relatively small amount per donation (say $1,000), and a relatively small amount per annum (say $10,000), to prevent ultrawealthy individuals purchasing politicians. These donations must not be given to an individual politician, but only to a political party. In addition, all donations should be made public in real time.
While restricting donations as explained above will seriously decrease the amount of money available to spend on election campaigns, the remainder will have to be provided from consolidated revenue. However, this should not be considered a carte blanche by politicians, and they should never be allowed to have any influence over regulating that expenditure. It should be left to a completely independent body, and the best to do so would be an organisation like the Electoral Commission, and should be tied to the Consumer Price Index.
We need to reconstruct our democracy, and to take it back from corporate interests. We need to make sure that no organisation can purchase a politician or a political party. We need to make sure that politicians do what is best for the general populace, not just those with the deepest pockets.