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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What's holding us back from doing something about money, politics and influence?

Important to you?

Join the like-minded as discussion gets underway about public integrity and related topics in the context of development of Australia's Open Government Partnership National Action Plan.

Lots of room for your thoughts, ideas, suggestions and observations. 

Join the Open Government Partnership Network, or tell the Prime Minister's department directly what you think. 

A selection below from media commentary in the last few days prompted by the Stuart Robert scandal - following years of deaf ears to calls for reform.

 Lenore Taylor (Guardian Australia) on Q&A
I think these scandals come and they go, the person resigns if there is enough political pressure but the only thing that will change the system is if we change donation laws and change the relationship between politicians and big money.
Katherine Murphy (Guardian Australia) and Mark Riley (Seven Network) on ABC Insiders (at 37 minutes), in summary:
the conduct of the minister in the Robert case where he seemed to assume he was a tourist while involved in activities to advance the interests of a business friend and political party donor in China, a business in which he held shares, was appalling. It revealed a political culture where people don't know where to draw the line, and pointed up the need for a hard look and a national conversation about corporate interests, money, politicians and power.
Stephen Mayne Crikey: Can Cormann (and Stuart Robert) fix our broken campaign finance system? (Subscription)

Paul Bongiorno in the New Daily
"..the Robert affair points up the shocking inadequacy of Australia’s political donation regime. There is not enough accountability or transparency....Greater donation limitations and transparency are needed urgently to preserve the national interest from greedy vested interests."
Mike Seccombe, The Saturday Paper "Stuart Robert and political donations."
"The evidence of any significant difference between the parties when it comes to ministerial standards is very weak. But there is a difference when it comes to the corrupting influence of political donations, and a very strong correlation between ideology and money. The conservative parties and their big money donors are the major enemies of limits, accountability and transparency...

The conservatives have also pioneered various means of circumventing disclosure, setting up associated entities to collect money, and by moving it between various party divisions to exploit differences in rules between states. That is not to say Labor is squeaky clean, either, but the record clearly shows that when it comes to dubious means of collecting funds, the Coalition tends to be the initiator and Labor the imitator. ....

[as (High Court) Justice Stephen Gageler (in McCloy) noted] that while buying preferential access to government did not necessarily result in corruption, “the line between a payment which increases access to an elected official and a payment which influences the official conduct of an elected official is not always easy to discern”. The implication of his words is obvious: the bigger the donation the bigger the risk of corruption. The elimination of preferential access to government that resulted from the making of political donations was not just “a legitimate legislative objective,” said Gageler. “More than that, the elimination of that form of influence on government is properly characterised as a compelling legislative objective.”

In other words, let’s set limits on donations, so moneyed interests can no longer buy politicians. Because this is not about Stuart Robert; it is about the whole system."
Editorial The Canberra Times "The public service not ministers, remains Australia's corruption risk."
"Ultimately, the Robert affair distracts attention from a deeper failing in government transparency. Federal parliamentarians' financial interests are generally well known; and, as a result, politicians mostly steer clear of obvious conflicts of interest. Yet, in practice, the vast majority of public spending is co-ordinated and approved by senior bureaucrats, not ministers. Unlike politicians, these officials have no need to make any public disclosures of their private interests. Yes, they are required by law to "take reasonable steps to avoid any conflict of interest (real or apparent)" – usually to their direct manager. However, the lack of regular or systematic investigation of these hidden disclosures begs the question: just how many scandals go undetected within the government?
While this secrecy remains, Australians will be unable to be entirely confident that their government – the executive and the bureaucracy – is as squeaky clean as it should be."

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