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Crikey says: NSW must ban political donations

It’s Commission of Audit day. Exciting, huh? Crikey meets the authors ahead of the release at 2pm. Plus the cosy conflicts around coal in NSW. Why John Faulkner’s retirement shows Labor’s learnt nothing (and a “Crikey“-style newsletter won’t fix it). Guy Rundle on the racists out of control. Arts companies closing under Campbell Newman. And inside Al Jazeera.

Commissioner, this inquiry will expose the systematic subversion of the electoral funding laws of New South Wales … The evidence will expose the conduct of some donors whose sole purpose in donating was to purchase favourable political decisions — at a more disturbing level it will show that there were others who were willing to sell their political preferences.”

So said Geoffrey Watson SC, the lawyer assisting the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, on Monday. It was the start of an explosive week of testimony, which has raised serious charges of Liberal MPs corruptly soliciting and hiding donations, allegedly in exchange for political favours.

This is nothing less than a threat to a workable democracy. The more donations candidates garner, the better their chance of winning. So ICAC has heard that wealthy businesspeople are corruptly and illegally buying seats for their lapdog MPs. Barry’s Grange pales in comparison.

New NSW Premier Mike Baird should be very, very worried. Here’s what he said this week:

I am on the record as a supporter of public funding of political campaigns, as a mechanism to expunge the corrosive culture of political donations. As stated by Counsel Assisting, Geoffrey Watson, SC, the time has come for a public debate on this matter, with decisive action to follow.”

Baird must follow through; the situation in NSW has got so bad and the stench of corruption so unmistakeable. NSW should bring in the full public funding of elections with all private donations banned. Let the taxpayer channel a certain amount of money per vote to candidates, and breathe easier in the knowledge that big businesspeople are not picking winners with their chequebooks.

It’s a drastic step that curtails the right of people in a free and fair democracy to donate to candidates they support. But with this much at stake, with some politicians allegedly on the take, it is justified.

*Bernard Keane is locked up with the rest of the press gallery rifling through the Commission of Audit papers in Canberra — check back to the Crikey website for full analysis after 2pm AEST

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  • 1
    David Hand
    Posted Thursday, 1 May 2014 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Public funding of political parties can’t work in the long term because the two big parties would collude to keep rivals out - another form of corruption.

    But in the case of NSW, I absolutely agree. Public funding is considerably less worse than the corruption we see on both sides of politics.

  • 2
    klewso
    Posted Thursday, 1 May 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a good idea, but how do you calculate the monetary worth of the positive PR generated by those controlling most of our hard-copy media (on whom such a large percentage of voters rely and expect to be kept fully and frankly informed) - trying to influence voter perceptions, to influence electoral outcomes, in favor of their preferred party?
    How much would Labor have to spend to counter Murdoch spin?

  • 3
    David Hand
    Posted Thursday, 1 May 2014 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Nothing - they’ve got the ABC.

  • 4
    klewso
    Posted Thursday, 1 May 2014 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    The ABC is Left-biased - because it doesn’t echo Murdoch’s Ministry of Misinformation!”?

  • 5
    David Hand
    Posted Thursday, 1 May 2014 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Ah that’s right.
    To lefties, a news outlet that shares their views is not biased.

  • 6
    klewso
    Posted Thursday, 1 May 2014 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Heaven knows, and I’m the first to admit it, I’m not Right about everything, but next time you’re out driving, pretend you’ve stopped progressing, and taken up a sedentary position on the extreme Right-Hand shoulder of the road (safely away from the influence of passing traffic), then consider the relativity of the centre/ABC line?

  • 7
    drsmithy
    Posted Thursday, 1 May 2014 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    To lefties, a news outlet that shares their views is not biased.

    I’m always ready to hear about some alleged ABC bias.

    Can you come up with five examples ?

  • 8
    drsmithy
    Posted Thursday, 1 May 2014 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    So long as political donations are constrained to natural persons only, and limited to amounts reasonable for normal people (say, up to 2000ish/yr), then it’s hard to see how they are a problem.

  • 9
    @chrispydog
    Posted Friday, 2 May 2014 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Amen.

    Democracy is a farce when private money can secretly buy a voice that is bigger than one vote.

  • 10
    David Hand
    Posted Friday, 2 May 2014 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Yes,
    I can do 5 examples but I don’t have time right now.

    So here’s 2.

    1. Barrie Cassidy’s soft focused pre-recorded interview with Peter Slipper in the election campaign when he failed to ask even one challenging question and let Slipper blame Tony Abbott for his wife’s miscarriage.

    2. Paul Barry’s first show back on Media Watch when he got all emotional about insults directed at Rudd and Gillard but seemed strangely unconcerned about insults directed at Tony Abbott.

    Oh yes, a third. That awful edition of Q&A when they lined up a bunch of human rights activists for a feeding frenzy on free speech and George Brandis.

    But then again, bias is in the eye of the beholder.

  • 11
    drsmithy
    Posted Saturday, 3 May 2014 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Barrie Cassidy’s soft focused pre-recorded interview with Peter Slipper in the election campaign when he failed to ask even one challenging question and let Slipper blame Tony Abbott for his wife’s miscarriage.

    That would appear to be Barrie Cassidy simply being a weak interviewer, rather than any evidence of bias.

    Eg: http://abcgonetohell.net/2012/07/12/insiders-barrie-cassidy-lets-tony-abbott-get-away-with-lies/

    Paul Barry’s first show back on Media Watch when he got all emotional about insults directed at Rudd and Gillard but seemed strangely unconcerned about insults directed at Tony Abbott.

    Probably because the “insults” directed at Tony Abbot aren’t in the same ballpark as those direct at Gillard, in vitriol, scale or pervasiveness.

    Abbot & Co. took dirty, attack politics to a new level when Gillard was PM. It was disgraceful.

    For those who want to make their own judgement on whether or not Paul Barry “got all emotional”, a google search for “Media Watch 8 July 2013” will bring it up. Personally I struggle to see anything of the sort.

    That awful edition of Q&A when they lined up a bunch of human rights activists for a feeding frenzy on free speech and George Brandis.

    Firstly, Q&A is an opinion show.
    Secondly, Brandis has some fairly despicable views. Criticising them is not “bias”.

    That the ABC broadcasts Amanda Vanstone (or someone equally partisan) on Counterpoint, or employs Chris Uhlmann, makes any claims of “bias” laughable.

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