It had to happen. The Jack Abramoff affair in the US has lead The Age today to state the obvious but unfortunate in its editorial today:

It is a timely reminder to Australian politicians who will
soon be debating a Federal Government bill that seeks to increase the
disclosure limit for political donations from $1500 to $10,000, indexed
yearly. Special Minister of State Eric Abetz, who is in charge of the
bill, has argued that the current threshold was too low when set in
1992 and has been eroded by inflation. “It adds nothing to Australia’s
democracy other than unnecessary red tape,” he said. The Age
disagrees. The US example shows what happens when there is a lack of
transparency about just who is paying whom for what. Already,
Australian donors can hide behind fronts, such as the Cormack
Foundation and Greenfields Foundation, which are aligned with the
Liberal Party, or John Curtin House for Labor, or pay premium prices to
attend fund-raising dinners. The $358,000 donation by ethanol producer
Manildra Flour Mills to coalition parties in 2003 – which coincided
with the Howard Government deciding not to cap ethanol levels in petrol
– raised questions about possible influence-peddling, but at least
showed Australia’s system of disclosure works. Let’s not go down the US

Last week we learned that the Howard Government
is considering abandoning a key part of the 2004 Free Trade Agreement
with the United States – the “evergreening” amendments to the
legislation made by then Labor leader Mark Latham to keep drug prices

The Australian reported:

Acting Prime Minister Mark Vaile confirmed last night that
the “evergreening” amendment, negotiated by former Labor leader Mark
Latham as a condition of the Opposition’s support for the deal, could
be tossed out.

This follows intense lobbying by the powerful
US pharmaceutical industry that the provision – designed to stop drug
companies from extending medicine patents to fend off cheaper generic
competitors – was one of a number of features that was harming

And, whaddya know? The Financial Review
reports today that “the local arms of multinational drug companies,
like their American counterparts, are emerging as big political donors
channelling hundred of thousands of dollars into the coffers of major
parties.” And there are all sorts of interesting details of donations
from companies like Pfizer, Merck, Sharpe and Dome, Eli Lily and
Bristol Myers Squibb that seem to favour the Government. Go figure, as
they say in the classics.

Soft money – and hard luck if you’re sick.