The Guardian September 10, 2003


Editorial:

Corruption at home

As Australian troops, financiers and other bureaucrats arrive in the 
Solomon Islands to root out corruption, establish transparency in 
government and establish law and order, one made-in-Australia scandal after 
another is being covered in the Australian media.

With unbelievable effrontery, Tony Abbott established a trust fund and 
called it "Australians for Honest Politics". As his contribution to 
"transparency" he has refused to name the contributors to his fund which 
was for the purpose of tripping up Pauline Hanson and putting her behind 
bars.

Malcolm Jones, a NSW lower house member of parliament, has been expelled 
from the house because he rorted his living away from home allowance. But 
is he the first and will he be the last?

Then there is the fund set up by some unions to fund the election campaigns 
of some members of the Federal parliament. It is claimed that the Electoral 
Commission was not informed of this fund which is said to have distributed 
about $100,000 because of an "oversight".

NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon has also revealed that the Randwick Labor Club 
donated $175,000 in the lead-up to the 2003 State election though the 
public has no idea where this money originated.

She says that the 500 Club donated $60,000 to the Liberal Party in the same 
period, yet the individuals or companies responsible for giving this money 
to the club are granted anonymity.

Shouldn't all this go down in the corruption column?

Is it any wonder that the Electoral Commission says that proposals that it 
has made over years have been ignored by successive Labor and Liberal 
governments because they would be "financially disadvantaged" by the 
suggested changes.

In another field we have the successive lies being told by the Prime 
Minister and his Ministers -- the children overboard, the "never ever" GST, 
"Medicare is here to stay", the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, just to 
name a few. But Howard and Co. are telling the Solomon Islanders and now 
the government of PNG about honesty in government.

In yet another field of "high society" we have the obvious corruption going 
on it one company after another. The story of Pan Pharmaceuticals is only 
one case. Capitalism is synonymous with corruption.

Australian politics are sinking deeper and deeper into the quagmire of 
deceit, double standards, corruption in high places and hypocrisy. This 
political immorality is leading to widespread cynicism about the present 
political process among the Australian people. Parliament is seen as the 
means by which those in control of the economic and political processes 
feather their own nests and those of their corporate mates while 
disregarding the interests of the overwhelming majority of the people.

While the Australian Electoral Commission does an efficient job and 
attempts through its recommendations to close loopholes in the present 
system it does not (and probably could not) call for the present system by 
which taxpayers' money is used to fund the expenses of political parties to 
be scrapped.

The CPA opposed this system from the very beginning maintaining that 
political parties should fund their own election campaigns. As it is the 
major parties receive millions of dollars to cover their election 
campaigns.

In the 1996 Federal elections alone, taxpayers paid out $32 million to the 
political parties. The ALP received $12.8 m., the Liberal Party $12.5 m., 
the National Party $2.9 m. and the Democrats $2.9 m. This scheme should be 
scrapped.

Other urgent reforms include establishing the right of recall by electors 
of parliamentarians who do not carry out their obligations in accordance 
with the needs of their electors, the introduction of proportional 
representation for all State and Federal elections, the reduction of 
salaries paid to parliamentarians to not more than that paid to a skilled 
worker and the elimination of perks and lurks at present enjoyed by 
politicians. These perks are often paid by companies in return for expected 
favours -- and their expectations are often fulfilled.

Are these reforms possible? Yes, they are. They already exist but only in 
those countries in which working class representatives are in command of 
their parliaments and the economy.
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