(Image: Private Media)

In the latest edition of Your Say, Crikey readers pretty much all agree: political donations set politicians down the path to corruption.

On The Dirty Country and corruption

Don Latter writes: One way of tackling pork-barrelling would be participatory democracy such as practised in Brazil’s city of Porto Alegre. Citizens, chosen by drawing of lots, debate how the city should spend its money. About 15,000 people have taken part in this over the years, and the government has to have very strong reasons for not accepting their decisions.

Apparently this has resulted in huge improvements in education, health, water supply, transport and so on.

This model could be tried at a local level, and, as problems are ironed out, extended to city, state and ultimately federal government.

Apart from letting a lot of light in on how our money is used, it would be a big improvement on our weak form of democracy where rampant corruption, cronyism, revolving doors and sexual abuse are shrugged off and our only recourse is to wait for the next election to kick the bastards out.

Anyone who has been involved in any kind of local group will know what a vast reservoir of untapped expertise and ingenuity there is among the populace. Our democracy as it stands is unfit for purpose and many politicians running our lives are unfit for office. Drastic changes are needed and participatory democracy would be a huge step in the right direction.

Rick Duley writes: Should all political donations be banned? Good heavens no! I would merely set some limits:

  • Donations should only to be made at electorate level
  • Donors must be paid-up individual members of the party
  • Donations should be limited to $20 a week.

I realise, of course, that this would not fund glossy, nationwide TV and print advertising orchestrated by faceless men in smoky rooms in Canberra. I also realise that this would restrict the focus of a political campaign to the candidate who would be forced to gather enough adherents in the electorate to run a campaign, and enough supporters to get voted in. And, of course, this would require the candidate to meet the electors, which would mean exposure to the wants, needs, dreams and hopes of the people eligible to vote. And I also realise, of course, that this would lead to a parliament made up of people who were faithfully representing their electorates.

I can live with that.

Glen Davis writes: Donations corrupt all public policy, from land zoning and development to environmental protection to even foreign policy. Corrupt donations are the cause of the secret trial of Bernard Collaery and Witness K.

There is only one solution: vote for no candidate of a party that accepts donations. If we have a parliament of independents, we will get corruption cleaned up, get freedom of information cleaned up, get the rule of law restored, get favoured oligopolies subjected to market competition and get donations banned.

Political donations in this country are more corrupt than mobster bag money. Both donors and recipients are tainted.

Tim Davis writes: Bernard Keane’s article “Money for influence” on the corruption brought about by political donations highlights the serious flaw in our democratic process.

When government policies are swayed by large donations to political parties, the interests of the community are undermined. In Victoria we have heard multiple reports on the influence of property developers on local councils. At the state level we learnt of Matthew Guy overriding Bass Coast Council’s objections to rezoning Ventnor farmland for housing in 2011 to the benefit of the wife of a property developer who was also a member of the Liberal Party and a family friend of former Liberal planning minister Rob Maclellan. This debacle cost the state millions of dollars in out-of-court settlements when it became public knowledge and Guy’s decision was reversed.

Look at the haphazard growth of suburbs without proper infrastructure planning and the huge loss of open green space around Melbourne that was designed to limit the urban sprawl that we now face … vested interests have too much influence on political decisions at the expense of the community.

The lack of action on climate change at the federal level, despite decades of overwhelming evidence that it is caused by fossil-fuel burning, is another example where vested interests purchase the outcomes they want by donations.

The Greens have been pushing for political donation law reform for many years for precisely the reasons outlined — that it smacks of bribery and leads to poor community outcomes. Sadly the so-called donation reforms in Victoria were designed to allow the Labor and Liberal parties to continue to receive donations laundered through their associated entities or companies with the specific aim of financially penalising the Greens, an outcome I am glad to say was not achieved.

Craig Silver writes: Two comments: political donations present a clear, textbook example of moral hazard, and the unions aren’t getting value for money.

Peter Fray

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