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I don’t have a special problem with anybody giving donations to a political party from whatever source. I don’t have a special problem when donations are expected to affect general policy stances whether this be the environment (the Greens), union rights (Labor), lower taxes and less regulation (the Liberals) or protection for farmers (the Nationals). All politics and parties involve special interests.
Where my problem comes in when there is an expectation that those donations will affect decision processes in hidden ways.
Let me define hidden. I don’t mean instantaneous transparency, I actually think that Governments need more decision secrecy, not less. I think that they need the capacity to wheel and deal. Rather, that the processes will be internally transparent and documented in the first instance, externally transparent at a later point. This was the key point of the NSW Labor corruption scandal. Those internal processes were distorted. There was neither internal transparency nor documentation for later record.
That’s where the problem came in. It’s not really a legal problem. It’s a structural and process problem. The law just complicates.
ABC Radio National carried an interview with Ian Dickson, the former ethics adviser to members of the NSW Parliament. The interview is described in this way:
For 15 years, Ian Dickson served as the part-time Ethics Adviser to members of the New South Wales Parliament. He retired in December 2013, frustrated that the law severely limited his role. He could only counsel MPs on ethics -- including the controversial relationships with lobbyists -- if they approached him. Now, as Ian Dickson reflects on the lobbying and political fundraising scandals being revealed in the state's Independent Commission Against Corruption, he has called for the Adviser's role to be strengthened, dramatically, to an Ethics Commissioner, with broad investigative powers. He speaks with Andrew West.As I listened, my main reaction was the thought that if the rules don't work, the response seems to be to tighten the rules. At one point in my life, I was a monitor in what was predominantly a boarding school. Part of my job was to enforce the rules. Who would have thought that that long lost experience would suddenly resonate!