The Greens, who have assumed responsibility for investigative journalism at The Sydney Morning Herald, are finally getting some recognition for their work.

Over the weekend it was revealed that since NSW Planning Minister Frank Sartor assumed control of large development, which appears to include anything bigger than a carport, property developers have given NSW Labor over $4m. This sum includes $1m from the state’s largest developers, received while their applications were being considered.

There’s not a whiff of corruption, of course. Even the Greens say so. NSW MP Sylvia Hale called it a conflict of interest rather than anything more sinister. Sartor, naturally, blames the Greens. If it wasn’t for them, nobody would have found out about it in the first place. Ergo, it is the Greens, not the donations, that are the problem.

Trouble is, even the companies giving the money are getting uncomfortable. In the same article a Meriton spokesman said, “we would prefer a system where we could have access to government differently”, which presumably means more cheaply.

Ken Morrison, head of the bulldozing troglodytes at the NSW Property Council, is on record as saying he’d rather have “independent planning panels … take the decisions on development applications out of the hands of politicians at state and local level.” Alternatively, he could just run for Premier. The funds appear to be there, Ken.

There are three points that lead to a quasi-Sicilian conclusion. Firstly, property developers are pure-bred, uncompromising, unreconstructed capitalists. Not a cent is spent, unless there is an obligation to do so, without a pay-off. Secondly, the developers and Sartor both agree that the donations don’t confer any benefit on the companies making them. Thirdly, despite this acknowledgment, developers continue with the practice.

Why does a property developer give money for no apparent return? If it isn’t a bribe, and clearly it is not, then it can only be one other thing: a de facto tax on developers levied by the NSW Labor Party, to be spent at their discretion. There is simply no other rational explanation.

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