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Democracy in name only!

Written by Leonie Saunders

Benevolent dictator of Connecting the Dots, proud lefty feminist. Adore children & animals. Despise greedy union bashing power abusing corp polluters.

February 20, 2020

According to the Guardian’s Christopher Knaus, analysis of donation disclosures suggests about 114 companies and lobby groups may have purchased business forum memberships worth $4.7m. Evidently, Santos, Nine Entertainment and big banks paid tens of thousands to secure pre-election access to political leaders.

Capitalists paying big bucks to enjoy the benefits that come from gaining special access to decision makers is typical of the double standards that have long plagued liberal representative democracies. However the degradation of democracy and its institutions in Australia did pick up pace during the mid 1970’s onwards as a consequence of Hawke corporatising the administration of government, followed by Howard politicising the Public Service.

Perhaps I should  explain where I am coming from. Historically, the success of the Westminster system of representative democracy in Australia relied on gatekeepers having tenure being at arms length from government in order to give frank, fair and fearless advice, and to maintain trust in a statutory system of checks and balances. 

But here’s the rub. When the much lauded Bob Hawke was in power he proceeded to implement his anti-democratic belief that the administration of public services should be corporatised. This was in keeping with his treasure Paul Keating introducing economic rationalism to Australia, which was a serious departure from Labour’s traditionally egalitarian principles that governed the Party’s economic policy’s. From this Labor opened the door to a corporate takeover of government. In doing so Hawke and Keating made it easier for John Howard to politicise the public service and its been all down hill from there. 

When Hawke, Keating and Howard subverted the system, it naturally followed that the moral imperatives that every member of Parliament swears to uphold have from that time on been easy to dishonour for the purposes of political expediency. Thus the idea of open and accountable government being cornerstones of democracy have been rendered meaningless.

So here we are today living in a world where to their credit, the filthy rich are more authentic than the political class. Unlike the political class the rich do not feign respect for the general public. Whereas our political leaders are at pains to placate us with glib platitudes aimed at quelling our anger at being treated as second class citizens.  They are so removed from reality that they are blithely unaware that with each platitude they are showing their contempt.  It is patently clear that neither you nor I would have a hope in hell of schmoozing with heads of government sipping Grange.

I mean, what are the odds that the Prime Minister or for that matter the leader of the Opposition would happily provide me, an ordinary working class citizen with their private phone numbers? I can say with the utmost confidence; not a chance. Yet you can bet your bottom dollar that business tycoon Mr Indue Card himself, Twiggy Forest, Santos’s Kevin Gallagher, and of course Murdoch, Rinehart, Hugh Marks. In fact all at the top of Australia’s Fortune 500 list will have direct phone access to both Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese.

 And still they are flummoxed as to why the general public rank professional politicians at the bottom of the ‘who do you trust’ register. I doubt they care to know why we rank them so low is because along with their obscene double standards, hypocrisy, insulting sophistry, prevarication and obfuscation. Their subterfuge is such that when we the people sniff the air our nostrils fill with the rancid stench of deception that is redolent of the self serving venality that wafts around them. 

So what do we know?

We know corporate lobbyists are in the influence business. We also know that the filthy rich do not pay for anything out of kindness. Andrew Twiggy Forest is a perfect example of an avaricious rent seeker who masters in gaining the upper hand by using jobs and strings attached philanthropy as a means to leverage government to serve his business interests..

We also know that whilst LNP and Labor politicians insist on telling us there is nothing to see here folks. We know that behind their claims to be as clean as the driven snow, neither political party wants to establish an ICAC with teeth because in truth, the snow is polluted sludge.

It doesn’t require a doctorate in mathematics or a degree in psychology to figure out the praxis of political party’s and their machine men running the show. It is simply a matter of connecting the dots… So long as expensive election campaigns are financed by political donations from the stinking rich. Ego driven careerist politicians addicted to power can never be trusted to serve in the best interests of the nation and its citizenry. Even more importantly, to the extent that bosses here and abroad can purchase access to this nations leading decision makers. It is pretty much a lay down misère that Australia’s great working class majority will never be seen by politicians as their equals, to be treated in a fair and just manner.

It is my contention that the only way to resolve the inequity of privileged access is to remove the capacity for cashed up corporate lobbyists and their employers to buy influence. This means outlawing all political donations.

It is entirely feasible to replace political donations as the main source of financing expensive election campaigns by 1. Accruing lost revenue by closing the multitude of tax loopholes for the rich. 2. End the subsidisation of big business. 3. Introduce a means tested end to the gifting of Franking Credits. Once these money saving measure are implemented. The Australian Electoral Commission can take on the responsibility of financial controllers. With all necessary checks and balances in place, a portion of the revenue saved would, on the basis of an equitable formula, be distributed by the AEC to finance the campaigns of individuals who having been vetted by the AEC meet all the legally prescribed criteria to stand as candidates in an election.


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