Revelations in the AEC’s report on donations made to political parties for last year’s election show democracy is under attack by big spenders, the biggest of which is Clive Palmer. They demonstrate that elections can be bought in this country.
The report shows Clive Palmer spent $84 million on the 2019 election – the biggest donation in Australia’s history! He won no seats but the general consensus is that this was never his objective. Doubtless his 3 years in Parliament from 2013 was largely a waste of time – time away from his considerable mining interests, primarily coal. Naturally, he is proud of his role in abolishing the carbon tax and the mining tax.
Palmer’s interest was always vested in opening up ever more profitable coal mining ventures and who better to back than the Coalition for making that happen? In October last year a Clive Palmer-controlled company applied for a mining lease and environmental authority to build a massive coalmine four times the size of Adani’s in the Queensland Galilee Basin.
So Palmer’s game plan was to deliver preferences to the Coalition which he did in spades in Queensland, getting coal-wielding Scott Morrison over the line. PUP preference did the same in the 2013 election – Palmer says so in his first speech in the House of Reps.
It remains to be seen whether the massive advertising campaign of scaremongering against Labor in the last election delivers a good return on his $84 million investment but for a billionaire this is doubtless peanuts.
How to stop this corruption by wealthy vested interest?
- Caps of ~$1,000 on donations from individuals and all organisations (similar to limits in NSW), disclosed in continuous real time (1-2 days)
- Limits placed on election expenditure for candidates, political parties, associated entities and third party entities
- Significant penalties applied to breaching electoral laws
- A uniform political donations regime across Australia
- A ban on donations from companies and individuals with fossil fuel sector interests (similar to the NSW ban on donations from property developers, tobacco businesses, liquor or gambling businesses)
- Licence conditions for federally licensed institutions, such as banks, telecommunications and television companies, that prevent any political donations being made by them;
- Legislation requiring major companies to seek shareholder approval for political donations;
- Legislation to prevent entities that receive government contracts or taxpayer funds from making donations.
Here’s what the NSW ICAC report, Dec 2014 says on the influence of political donations
A situation in which citizens believe elections can be bought or that there is some quid pro quo for helping a candidate win must be seen as seriously damaging to the proper functioning of a democratic government. A corrupt member of parliament can be voted out of office if elections are free and fair. But if there is a loss of trust in the election process, then the whole system of representative government is weakened.