Political donations, you give so you can receive

by Elizabeth Handley

Politicians have a distorted moral compass on political donations. In paying tribute to Ian Macfarlane who exterminated Labor’s Mining Tax, Tony Abbott said:

It was a magnificent achievement by the [member] for Groom in his time as minister … and I hope the sector will acknowledge and demonstrate their gratitude to him in his years of retirement from this place.

In other words, he delivered magnificently and now the mining industry should reward good service. It is a blunt clear message. This is not about good outcomes for the people of Australia. It is about a financial transaction with services provided for an expected reward. This is in direct contravention of their self-imposed code of conduct [1}There are many examples of our politicians, from both major parties, being rewarded with positions on company boards and favourable government and diplomatic posts on retirement or tactically timed resignation.

Extract from former Labor deputy premier and treasurer Terry Mackenroth’s Wikipedia entry.

“In his ministerial role Mackenroth was responsible for overseeing the creation of the SEQ Regional Plan. 25 days after the plan was locked in he resigned from Parliament and less than 2 months later he became a Director of Devine Ltd, a residential property development company. Devine used legal loopholes in the SEQ Plan to gain approval to build 527 homes on the Currumbin Hideaway site that was outside the urban zoning of the plan. This site was sold 6 months after approval for $48 million more than the purchase price.” Story by Greg Stolz in The Courier Mail 05/08/2009. 

http://www.couriermail.com.au/ news/queensland/cmc-urged-to- probe-mackenroths-links/story- e6freoof-1225757983502

Terry Mackenroth was recently appointed by the Treasurer Curtis Pitt to the QSuper board. We already have experience of the results of donations and undueinfluence on planning decisions in our State.

In their paper of April 2015 https:// theconversation.com/four-ways- we-can-clean-up-corruption-in- land-rezoning-42557 Cameron K. Murray and Paul Frijters, economists from the University of Queensland, studied planning decisions of the Queensland State Urban Land Development Authority (ULDA), which removed planning decisions from local councils in a number of areas which it rezoned between 2008-2012.” “The main finding is that well-connected landowners owned 75% of the rezoned land”, “indicating that these decisions were primarily driven by the relationship networks of the landowners.”

The Gold Coast Council elections are currently being investigated because of claims that several so-called independent councillors were funded by Coalition MP Stuart Robert who in turn is an ardent supporter of Sunland developers. The council is currently considering a major development by Sunland on the Spit. (see photo left)

It is time political donations were replaced by a system where the only election materials allowed are those publicly funded for each candidate. This would stop the way political donations corrupt and distort our democracy.

We have seen too many political decisions only explicable by how they favour large donor interests. The system must change. Our democracy is at stake.

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[1} The story appears http://www. theguardian.com/australia-news/ live/2016/may/05/tony-abbott- suggests-the-mining-industry- should-demonstrate-their- gratitude-to-ian-macfarlane- politics-live?page=with:block- 572a64f2e4b00455bdea3c0f#block- 572a64f2e4b00455bdea3c0f