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How to end private political donations

An article in today’s Guardian has me gobsmacked. And politically speaking, that’s not an easy thing to do. It seems former Prime Minister John Howard thinks that it’s fine for politicians and political parties to accept donations from foreign entities. Really?

Howard told Sky news, “I am not against foreign donations, I don’t believe in banning corporate donations, I don’t believe in banning trade union donations, so therefore I’m the odd man out in this whole debate.”

He has one recommendation though…

“The one big change that’s needed is more timely disclosure of donations. Transparency is the key.”

After we have just survived a week where the entire conservative side of politics has been baying for the blood of Sam Dastyari for foolishly accepting a personal gift of $1600 from a foreign entity, here we have their former leader telling them and everyone else, the donations are not the problem. It is the time they take to be disclosed.

But then he says, “It seems as if we are, as a collective political class, saying federal politics is so potentially corrupt that we’ve got to insulate ourselves against undue financial influence. In all the years I was in federal politics I did not see any significant evidence of corruption.”

Have I misread this or is he really saying that federal politics is NOT potentially corrupt enough to be insulated? Is he mad? Yes John, for your information, politics is corrupted enough! It is corrupted enough the moment a party candidate is elected. From that moment, he/she abandons all personal conviction in favour of the party’s wishes. That’s corruption. They no longer serve their electorate. They serve the party.

What politician could honestly say they have never voted against their own beliefs in favour of whatever position the party decided?

There are a few occasions where members have crossed the floor, but to suggest they have always believed in whatever the party machine has decided and voted accordingly, is stretching one’s imagination too far.

482992-e83d0f5c-d2a2-11e3-b50b-78228b221809Howard goes further. He says, “We bewail the fact that people don’t respect politicians. Well, you won’t win respect if you, by implication, admit you’re capable of being bribed by the size of a donation.”

Politicians already admit they are capable of being bribed. They are calling for change. That’s what this debate is all about.

Any politician is capable of being bribed. The size of a donation is mere detail. That is why we have procedures, rules, guidelines. That is why we have laws. Yet laws are always broken, so we have punishments to suit the magnitude of the offence. Dhrr! Where have you been these last nine years, John?

Suggesting that the disclosure or the timing of the disclosure will fix it, is simplistic and naive. It clearly doesn’t and it won’t. You fix things by making it as near as impossible to do it or get away with it. But we know from hard experience not even that works.

Just look at what the NSW Liberal party did to overcome the ban on donations from developers. They set up elaborate “independent entities” where money could be laundered before it could be safely funnelled into party funds.

The best, but by no means the surest, way to stop potential bribery-prone donations is to publicly fund all political parties and candidates and outlaw any other means of funding.

But even that is not enough. You then need to have each party submit their advertising programs to a central authority for processing and payment.

That central authority would then administer the production and distribution of those programs. They could also oversee the accuracy and honesty of all political statements, claims and promises, BEFORE they approve them.

20140000-political-corruption-400pxNot one cent would be paid to a political party or candidate. Not one cent! Politics is, by its very name and nature, corrupt. It has always been thus. As long as donations are legal from any source other than the public purse, it always will be.

And before the neo-liberal army gets on its high horse claiming the nation could not afford it, they should be reminded that the public purse is already paying political parties based on electoral performance.

They just don’t have any control over what it is spent on and from where else politicians get it. Let them ALSO be reminded that a sovereign currency issuing nation can afford anything that is for sale in its own currency.

Yes, we can afford it. And we should do it.


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  1. Paul Nicholls

    Good article. Ending all political donations other than those
    from the public purse and registered voters must be legislated to ensure this corrupting influence is removed from politics.

  2. Phil

    Here, bloody well here!

    I too was stunned by Howard’s words.

    I sense the anger is building in the wide electorate and soon it will be unstoppable. The tables are turning and Howard’s ‘political class’ is about to cop a caning. They are not the untouchables anymore.

  3. Joe

    “I am not against foreign donations, I don’t believe in banning corporate donations, I don’t believe in banning trade union donations, so therefore I’m the odd man out in this whole debate.” NEWSLASH Little Johnny, You are no longer part of the debate Now F-Off and keep quiet like you PROMISED YOU WOULD

  4. Kronomex

    I think little Johnny Howard’s ever expanding eyebrows prevented him from seeing the corruption within his party. What he couldn’t see he could ignore.

  5. paulwalter

    There is only one way to get rid of political donations and that is to get rid of politicians.

  6. Kaye Lee

    “In all the years I was in federal politics I did not see any significant evidence of corruption.”

    10 of Howard’s federal Executive Council members – ministers and parliamentary secretaries – were forced to resign.

    2006 speech from Senator John Faulkner after ten years of Howard government:

    Minister Jim Short was forced to resign for failing to divest himself of financial interests in his area of ministerial responsibility. Industry minister John Moore was exposed for his shareholdings in technology investment and share-trading companies. Parliamentary secretary Brian Gibson lost his job because of a conflict of interest. Small business minister Geoff Prosser was running three shopping centres while he was a minister and he was forced to resign. Resources minister Warwick Parer had massive share interests in a coalmine and in other resource companies; he stayed, in breach of the ministerial code. Acting minister for communications Peter McGauran forgot that he owned 70 poker machines. Employment services minister Mal Brough promoted training courses which were actually Liberal Party fundraisers. Industry minister Ian Macfarlane was involved in a complex scam to rort GST rebates from Liberal Party fundraisers. Aboriginal affairs minister John Herron kept up his practice as a surgeon, in breach of the code.

    Mr Howard himself was found to be in breach of his own code when he failed to resign as a director of the Menzies Research Centre. Mr Howard misled the parliament over meetings he had held with ethanol producer Manildra’s boss—massive Liberal Party donor Dick Honan. It was eventually proved that the meetings did occur, and three weeks later the government increased trade penalties against a Brazilian ethanol producer. Parliamentary secretary Warren Entsch’s concrete company won a massive government contract in breach of the code. Peter Reith was appointed as a consultant to defence contractor Tenix immediately after resigning as defence minister. Health minister Michael Wooldridge signed a $5 million building deal for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and days later, after resigning as health minister, was employed by the college as a consultant. Senator Coonan, as Minister for Revenue, avoided paying a land tax. She was then exposed and forced to resign as a registered director of an insurance dispute resolution company operating from her own home.

    Wilson Tuckey, then Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, heavied a state police minister on behalf of a family member. Parliamentary secretary Bob Woods retired from politics when he was under police investigation for travel rorts. Communication minister Richard Alston’s family trust held Telstra shares. Peter Costello, the Treasurer, appointed Liberal Party megadonor Robert Gerard to the Reserve Bank board despite being told by Mr Gerard that he was involved in a 14-year-long tax evasion dispute with the Australian Taxation Office. Three ministers—John Sharp, David Jull and Peter McGauran—were forced to resign as a result of travel rorts involving false claims, mismanagement or cover-ups. Parliamentary secretary Bill Heffernan was forced to resign over fabricated claims against a High Court judge.


  7. Pappinbarra Fox

    Kaye Lee your 8.20 notes deserve a column of their own. And who was the health minister who told select doctor mates about an impending govt decision so they could purchase machines before the decision giving them a monopoly?

  8. Kaye Lee

    Faulkner’s speech contains many more examples including the scandal over the budget leak about MRI machines and National Textiles, the company headed by the Prime Minister’s brother, Stan Howard, which was bailed out by the government to the tune of $4 million.

    There was the massive blow-out of $2 billion in the Commonwealth’s consultancies bill. They increased government staffing of ministers and parliamentary secretaries from 293 when they came to office to 430 now (2006), many paid above the salary range.

    etc etc etc

  9. stephentardrew


  10. jim

    Kaye Lee one million points to you.

  11. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Good on you, Kaye, for spotlighting Howard and his conmen.

  12. Stephen Brailey

    As ususal Lee Kay right on the money…so to speak! At least the banning of donations will stop one form if government corruption. John Howard’s nose is so far in the trough he has trouble seeing more a few metres in front of his snout. The other thing that badly needs immeadiate reform is the practice of ministers sliding straight into a highly paid corporate position in their previous area if responsibility!

  13. Mark Needham

    Yeah. At it again, or should I say, still.
    KL.”10 of Howard’s federal Executive Council members – ministers and parliamentary secretaries – were forced to resign.”

    We are lucky in the respect, that all Labour Politicians are honest. That we can carry this proud banner of Honesty and Truthfullness, is the warmth that I require, when going to sleep at night.

    Getting back to reality, all donations should be banned, if corruption is the enemy. It is inevitable, that a donor will be preferred in some manner or means, eventually. This is a fact of life.
    There should be more demonstrations of the Sepp, Thieving, Corrupt, Blatter., having money “Thrown at them”.

    Money + Gifts = Corruption

    Mark Needham

  14. Steve Laing - makeourvoiceheard.com

    Given that mass communication via the internet is now cheaper than it has ever been in history, why is there the need for all this funding? The main beneficiaries of it, of course, is Rupert Murdoch and his unsavoury ilk. No wonder little Johnny is in favour – he is still somehow able to come across as an elder statesman, whereas he was economically little more than a one trick pony – selling the family silver to buy votes – the aftermath of which may destroy the future prosperity of the entire nation.

    Moreover you can’t put forward a political argument in thirty seconds, so “advertising” cannot really support a proper political process. It does, of course, support the maintenance of the status quo, and various snouts in the trough, both political and the “businesses” that surround it.

  15. jimhaz

    In terms of National Security, I would think the propaganda of the Heartland Institute would be doing more to undermine our security than the influence of Dastyari.

    Conservative climate-sceptic thinktank The Heartland Institute foot the bill for Queensland backbencher George Christensen to travel to Las Vegas to take part in its “international conference on climate change”.

    A few years ago Fiona Nash also had a lobotomy under Dr Lobbyist in relation to health warnings (she would have known full well what Alastair Furnival was up to). I wonder if some people might now develop diabetes as a result of what they were told to do by their business friends.

  16. Pappinbarra Fox

    Kaye Lee Tor 8.20 notes deserve a column of their own. And who was the health minister who told select doctor mates about an impending govt decision so they could purchase machines before the decision giving them a monopoly?

  17. bobrafto

    Why is it that Fairfax and even the ABC refer to Sam’s stupidity as receiving money from a company linked to a communist govt.?

    Is there a difference between Chinese nationals and their govt.?

    Yet we have billions of dollars coming in from China to buy our farms and infrastructure yet there is no mention of communism linked to these companies.

  18. Mark Needham

    Möbius Ecko
    Labour needs to set up their own Company.
    Like the expense account for overnight accommodation in Canberra, whilst staying in your wifes house/apartment.
    Absolute Bullshit.
    The trough of parliamentarians, must be slashed/burnt/sunk/destroyed and withdrawn. The excuse that the excesses are not set by Parliament, is an absolute bastard Farce.
    Mark Needham

  19. paulwalter

    Mark..interesting read and depressing.

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