Rotten to the core
by Marcus Browning Rorts, backroom deals, bribes, electoral role manipulation and branch stacking have become entrenched and even obligatory behaviour in a political system corrupt and rotten to the core. It is the outcome of a culture of vote buying and big money politics, which have maintained the power of the two major political parties in Australia over a long historical period, that lies at the root of this political system. In order to reinforce their dominant position Labor and the Liberal/Nationals have resorted to various tactics at both state and federal levels, including proposals to change the voting system to exclude smaller parties, and the abolition of the federal Senate and its state equivalents. In local elections, in particular, the major parties have carried out the practice of buying preferences from other groups and standing bogus independent candidates to splinter the vote for alternative parties and real independents. And then there is the long list of cabinet members in the Howard Government exposed as rorting the system and having corporate vested conflicts of interests. In damage control mode the federal and Queensland ALP are striking all the right poses and desperately promising reforms and punishments. Labor MPs have resigned (Queensland Government's Grant Musgrave for signing false electoral enrolment forms) and stood down (Wayne Swan, Federal Labor, pending Federal Police investigations into a 1996 payment to the Democrats for voting preferences). Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has sacked a senior ministerial advisor after alleged irregularities in three ALP bank accounts, now being investigated by police. The adviser has since coughed up $30,000 to the ALP. Federal Labor leader Kim Beazley has ordered a national audit of ALP members over branch stacking and electoral rorting, and the Queensland ALP branch is reviewing all of its membership lists. "I make it quite clear that there is no room in the Australian Labor Party for people who break the law or rort the rules for personal or political advantage", said Labor leader Kim Beazley. But it's all hot air. The corruption and criminal activity is systemic, with both the Liberal-National Coalition and the power brokers of right- wing Labor enmeshed in the corporate drive for profit, in a system based on theft and exploitation. The alternative to this political cesspool are the left and progressive forces — the trade unions, the community-based organisations, the environmentalists, the genuine Labor left, Indigenous people's movement and the Communist Party and other left political groups and parties. The need is to work together not only in election campaigns, but for the formation of alliances based on agreed-upon principles and plans of action. Only in this way will it be possible to seriously challenge the corrupt rule of the corporate moneybags and those who represent their interests in parliament.