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Who’s your donation daddy?

Retired NSW Democrat, then Independent, MLC Richard Jones is now a local ceramist. Photo supplied.

Has it ever been truer than it is today that,  ‘He who pays the piper, calls the tune’?

Australian fossil fuel giant, Santos, donated $83,000 to the Labor Party in 2021–22

Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, just quietly granted the company approval for their fracking project of 116 gas wells in the Surat Basin, south-west of Gladstone, that will operate until 2077.

Independent member for Kooyong, Dr Monique Ryan, tweeted, ‘You’d have to say they received an excellent return on their investment’. 

Anti-corruption crusader, Andrew Wilkie, has once again introduced legislation in federal parliament to bust this vice-like grip corporations have over governments. 

Wilkie pointed out in his introductory speech that in the 2021–22 financial year, the Coalition received $118 million and the Australian Labor Party $124 million in political bribes, oops, donations. 

Forty per cent of this revenue is dark money, donations with no identifiable source. 

The current threshold for disclosing donations is absurdly high: $15,200. Currently, corporations can make multiple donations just below the threshold and not disclose them. 

Andrew Wilkie’s legislation would reduce the disclosure threshold to $1,000 and require multiple donations from the same source to be disclosed. 

His legislation also caps total donations at $50,000 in any one election cycle. It also prohibits donations from corporations that cause direct harm to Australians, including fossil fuel entities, gambling companies, liquor companies and the tobacco industry. Is it likely either side of politics will support it? 

Don’t hold your breath!

We know that Minister Michelle Rowland accepted a $10,000 donation from Sportsbet while acting as Labor’s spokesperson for communications, including regulation of online gambling. In 2020–21, Sportsbet donated $55,000 to the Australian Labor Party and $87,500 to the Liberal Party of Australia. 

Meanwhile in NSW, Premier Dominic Perrottet is desperately trying to retain power, and has staked part of his bid for success on introducing a cashless gaming card when punters play the pokies. This would inhibit money laundering.

Despite enormous pressure from Clubs NSW, opposition leader Chris Minns has announced a cashless gaming card trial for 500 machines in NSW. He said he will ban political donations from the clubs sector and reduce the number of poker machines if he wins.

It’s not just the obvious industries that have major political parties by the short and curlies. In our own region, someone, and we don’t know who, decided that Casino would be the ideal place to site an incinerator to burn plastic and other household waste under the guise of ‘waste-to-energy’. 

Not only would it pollute the community and countryside with dioxins, but it would also stigmatise the primary produce of the region and create a mountain of toxic ash. 

Public information requests to find out who chose Casino, and why, have been rejected because it’s ‘Cabinet in Confidence’. Why is the community being kept in the dark? What are they hiding?

Regulation of pesticides was crippled by the previous federal Coalition government as soon as it came to office. Pesticides banned for years overseas are used freely in Australia. 

Domestic testing of produce is done by the industry itself, with no public reporting. Whole ecosystems are dying, and people are getting sick. No action has yet been proposed by the Albanese government to rectify it. Why not?

Sheep and cattle are victims of heavy industry pressure too. 

An independent monitoring scheme was established in 2018, after 2,400 sheep died while being exported from Australia by Emanuel Exports. That monitoring has come to a virtual halt. Between May and December last year, independent observers boarded just 11 out of 78 eligible live export voyages. 

I witnessed Australian sheep being unloaded in Libya back in 1987, and it was a horror story of blood and terror. No caring person would support live animal exports. Does the Albanese government care about the suffering? The Morrison government didn’t.

When Richard Amery was Minister for Agriculture in the NSW Carr government, he confided to me that he wanted to ban the cruel battery cages for hens, but he couldn’t. The industry wouldn’t let him. It was only because I held the balance of power in 1995 that I was able to get my legislation passed to ban the annual duck killing season in NSW. 

I couldn’t help the hens though. Sadly, the Victorian Labor government has just announced the duck season is on again in 2023.

The bottom line is that when you vote for Labor or the Coalition, you vote for corporate corruption of our democracy. 

Thankfully, we have the option of giving our first vote to the Greens, Animal Justice Party, other small parties, and genuine independents. We need to send a really powerful message to the major parties to clean up their act. 

We are the ones who pay the piper. We call the tune!