Changing the donation rules. Malcolm Turnbull had his Liberal Party Treasurer hat on yesterday as he proposed a radical change to the way political parties are allowed to finance election campaigns. Mr Turnbull wants donations banned except those from individuals. “I would love to see a day when no unions or corporations could give donations to political parties”, he told the House of Representatives. “I would love to see a day when only individuals on the electoral roll were allowed to give money to political parties—with an annual cap. I would support that but this is a big issue and one that this parliament owes the nation a careful consideration.”

The shadow Treasurer’s moaning about the inequality that now exists between the Liberal and Labor parties when it comes to extorting money from business to pay for all that television advertising was heightened by changes Labor is trying to force through the Parliament to stop political donations being tax deductible. Labor, he argued, was in a much better position than his lot as big business had abandoned its old policy of just giving money to the Liberals while leaving Labor to be financed by trade unions. Getting rid of tax deductibility would hurt the Coalition most as it would not affect trade unions which do not pay company tax.

Mr Turnbull summarized his case this way:

What has happened in recent years—and I speak with some personal knowledge of this, having formerly been the honorary federal treasurer of the Liberal Party—is that the larger public companies have either ceased to make political donations at all or, when they have made donations, split them 50-50. Of course, state governments are controlled by the Labor party and have enormous leverage over property developers and the hospitality industry. Look at what the Labor government in New South Wales has done for the hoteliers of that state by putting poker machines in every hotel. That is a wonderful contribution to the social welfare of the people of New South Wales! It has done a great job for party fundraising but it means that the Labor Party now has at least as large if not a larger share of contributions from the business sector as the Liberal Party. All of this is publicly disclosed; this is all a matter of fact. This is not a contentious observation.

The defeat she needed. Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop got the headlines she needed when the Opposition made its decision not to use its numbers in the Senate to block Labor’s industrial relations laws scrapping WorkChoices and abandoning Australian work place agreements. Back in Ms Bishop’s home state the Liberal Party faithful are very committed to that which Labor is getting rid of and that made it necessary for WA’s chief representative in Canberra to at least appear to be fighting the good fight. That she did and she can wave around in Perth all those stories about her being rolled in the party room to prove it. Very good politics played by a very smart operator whose reputation will not suffer at all when the pundits realize the assistance their writings have been to her back home.

Thanks to Dean. Labor Leader Kevin Rudd might have forced Victorian Electrical Trades Union Secretary Dean Mighell out of the Labor Party but the Party’s new member for Deakin, Mike Symon, is grateful enough to the former boss he worked for as a union official to put him at the top of the thank-you list in his maiden speech. The Plumbers Union, the MUA, the CEPU P&T division, the AMWU, UFU, the CMFEU, the ASU, AWU, CPSU, HSU, NUW, RTBU, SDA, TCFUA and the Victorian Trades Hall Council all got thanked as well along with the ACTU and “any other unions which I may have forgotten to mention.” Mr Symon promises to pay his dues and sees “a role for government in providing security of entitlements, and I would encourage consideration of a national scheme that banks workers’ entitlements to protect them from corporate collapse.” 4 out of 10.

Graham Perrett, Labor, Moreton: Did not have quite as many unions on his thank-you list – just the AMIEU, the LHMU, the ETU, the RTBUA, the AMWU “and my old union”, theQIEU. This former union organiser in Christian schools for five years promises “to bring some more poetry and literature back into this chamber” which will be a welcome change from yesterday’s recitation of union initials. 4 out of 10.

Rowan Ramsey, Liberal, Grey: Says he brings to Parliament “a sense of social obligation and a Christian compassion for all.” He expressed a frustration with “what I see as our collective lack of individual accountability” where people were always looking “for someone to blame.” Mr Ramsey clearly has some reservations about the decision to allow Labor to scrap the Coalition’s industrial relations laws saying “I urge the government to take great care with their changes to industrial relations lest they sour the well of jobs growth.” 5 out of 10.

Alex Hawke, Liberal, Mitchell: Sees “the loss of human dignity involved in ever increasing reliance on the state” as a trend he wants to resist. “We need to ensure that government in this country does not become our unwanted father, mother, brother or sister.” 6 out of 10.

The Daily Reality Check

There I was yesterday lauding the ABC website as the home of serious-minded Australians concerned with the politics of their nation. So what has this morning brought to the top of Auntie’s internet most read list? Dead children overdosed, Dhoni and Symonds selling for millions while the sea levels in Venice plunge to 14 year lows. The Obama versus Clinton contest made it and thank goodness for Australian Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, telling us that it was time for Australian troops to leave Iraq. At least that meant there was one local political story that people actually read. Not much interest in anything else political. Alexander Downer skipping question time for a long lunch intrigued readers of the national daily’s site and a good old Labor Party scandal with s-x and property developers combined showed the way at the Sydney Morning Herald. Elsewhere it was the normal diet of hungry, jobless men cooking dogs, Lleyton lashing a Bec-mad media while banking his latest cheque from a weekly women’s magazine and another priest appearing on child p-rn charges.

The Pick of This Morning’s Political Coverage

Defence chief concedes new peril for soldiers in Afghan units – Brendan Nicholson, The Age
Labor ministers drawn into deepening scandal – Andrew Clennell, Wendy Frew and Brian Robins, Sydney Morning Herald
50 Victorians a week have homes taken – Craig Binnie, Rachel Hewitt and Alice Coster, Herald Sun
Rudd’s school computer promise comes unplugged – Renee Viellaris, Courier Mail
Culture vultures: Rudd razor gang targets capital’s top institutions – James Massola, The Canberra Times

Peter Fray

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