The Great Donation Debate: Time to Ban all Union and Company Donations! by James Reed

Good work Sam Dastyari, for inadvertently throwing the whole sordid issue of political donations into the public view. And as Cory Bernardi has pointed out in his Weekly Dose of Common Sense, the $1,670 bill was not even a donation to a political party, but a personal bill sent off to a Chinese front company, who paid it, and cannot be justified merely by a declaration. This is a good example of the “underbelly of the NSW right,” with the ultra-Machiavellian attitude of “whatever it takes; anything goes for political survival.”

But it would be wrong to focus attention solely upon the failings of one Senator, as much of the media comments on this issue have done. It is likely that this is just the tip of a very dark iceberg, and it has raised the wider, more important issue of political donations, especially from foreign entities such as the Chinese.

Interestingly enough, Malcolm Turnbull has called for a ban on union and company donations. He has proposed that political donations be limited to individual Australian voters, which as pointed out in The Sydney Morning Herald (September 6, 2016), would see about 90 percent of political donations disappear. This is no doubt a quick move to target union groups who outnumbered Liberals at polling booths in the last election.

While this looks good on paper, this announcement was made at the same time that Malcolm Turnbull welcomed billionaire James Packer’s $ 250,000 donation to the Australian Republican Movement: The Weekend Australian, September 10-11, 2016, p. 5.

So, for the Liberals, I imagine that donations will flow not from corporations, but from the hyper-rich individuals behind them. China will no doubt seek to influence politicians by using individuals to funnel money.

What is needed is a complete end to donations of any form to political parties. Elections have become a massive waste of money. I believe that things should get back to basics. Politicians should finance their own campaign, and if this is to be done on a shoe string, then long live shoe strings!

On the Packer donation, it is worth recalling that Kerry Packer said in an interview in 1995:

“I think at this point in time we have to be seen to be independent. Even if we are independent we have to be seen as independent. I think that Paul 
Keating is quite right. I think that our future and our whole future lies in Asia and I think it’s hard to be part of the British commonwealth and have your whole life in Asia.”

The statement is illogical, and falls apart upon scrutiny. Who is it that is the policeman who we have to be seen to be independent? And why? Surely a country can be part of the Commonwealth and Asia: who says that these are mutually exclusive? And, doesn’t “having your whole life in Asia,” just reek of imperialist domination, the likes of which we are just starting to see?

 

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Wednesday, 23 September 2020
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