On the Question of Political Donations

by on 12 September, 2016

By Rowan Cravey

There are many maligned things in political life. Spending money on ski trips or chartering chopper transportation are two examples, but the most incendiary issue of the now, is the one of donations.

In the majority of the public’s eye, donations essentially equal corruption most foul and should be spat on at the earliest possible convenience. They ‘buy’ politicians as serial narcissistic peacock, Nick Xenophon would allege. They influence policy direction for the benefit of the highest bidder, so to speak.

This is foolish. The Greens and some leftist minor parties have made huge hay out of claiming the higher moral ground and greater righteousness simply because fewer people donate to them. Creating a dichotomy between the donated-to and the not-donated-to is just another way for them to set themselves as different to the major parties, and therefore worth paying attention to.

While political games are the usual for the political class, this fallacy and morphed into what is cast as an utter certainty. Donations at their most basic, are supporters of a political party or individual who wish to see them win government or positions of influence, because they believe in what they stand for. This theoretically leads to policy development that will align with the donators beliefs. The more cynical view of donations, as oft proclaimed by the Greens and others like Xenophon, is that the money is given solely for the purpose of bribing a party to shape policy simply for the benefit of those who donate most. But there is a missing link in all of this.

The missing link is action. Governments must still put into action policy that either reflects the donators interests, or the party’s stated beliefs and principles. If the Government receives cash from a donator, then can simply say thank you for your support, and then move on to policy development, independent from the donators wishes. The causal link of donations to action is simply not there.

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The question of political donations looms higher than ever with Senator Dastyari’s recent actions

Indeed, those who are willing to be influenced by donations, such as ‘junior senator’ Sam Dastyari, are a problem, but in the end, garish difference of advocacy and inconsistency between himself and the rest of Labor have led to being outed. While Dastyari’s conduct is deplorable, the presence of mandatory disclosure of donations is a strong force to ensure accountability and transparency. But in the end, donations are simply not the problem, not the root of any problem. Politicians willing to be bought and be puppets for the highest bidder are.

 

Rowan Cravey is currently interning for the Australian Taxpayers’ Aliance

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