Wednesday, June 21, 2006
SAD DAY FOR DEMOCRACY
www.crikey.com.au reports: The Senate has just passed the biggest attack on Australia's system of campaign finance since the Hawke Government first mandated disclosure of donations to political parties more than 20 years ago. Despite vigorous opposition from Labor and all the minor parties, individual donations of up to $10,000 can now lawfully remain secret. This gives Australia arguably the weakest system of political disclosure in the developed world. In the US, all donations above $US200 must be disclosed, and during election campaigns any contribution above $1,000 must be revealed within 48 hours. Contrast that with Australia, where the Russian Mafia could have donated $9,999 to the eight different Liberal Party branches on July 1 last year and at least we would have been told about it (although not for 19 months until February 1 2007). Under the new laws, such donations from international mobsters would permanently remain secret.In the UK, political leaders even have to reveal how much they spend getting their hair done, whereas an Australian political party could pay $5 million to Mick Gatto and no-one would be any the wiser.What we now have is a recipe for corruption. In a world where political and business accountability and transparency is on the rise, the Howard Government has taken a retrograde step and abused its Senate majority like never before. It's a sad day for democracy.