Monday, May 19, 2008

Lobbying and corruption

Australian Greens senator Bob Brown has said he was offered a $1 million bribe by a large media company eight years ago. He has used the incident as an illustration of why he believes the Federal Government's attempts to regulate lobbyists' activities do not go far enough. SMH

Unfortunately Brown’s illustration has overshadowed his call for tougher lobbying regulations; though it is already doubtful that the Rudd government will go any further than rolling back the excesses of the Howard administration.

Brown wants an independent corruption commission, similar the one operating in NSW; his point being that politicians then have somewhere to take these claims with some confidentiality. Brown was advised at the time that he risked defamation charges if he named the organisation attempting to bribe him.

Of course Brown, like all members of parliament, does have a little device called parliamentary privilege, not to mention the existing potential to work through these concerns in confidentiality. I guess, in the end, those means depend on a members own concept of integrity and the integrity of the parliament.

On top of that there is still the Electoral Commission (AEC), which should, but rarely monitors and prosecutes electoral irregularities. To be fair, neither the AEC or a new Corruption Commission can prosecute unethical behaviour unless it is also illegal. However parliament does have some power to deal with ethics.

Keeping the tally

The other issue with the type of bribe Brown was offered is; how do the parties involved monitor it? He was allegedly offered $1 million in advertising and promotion. For a start there are legal restrictions on political advertising and promotion does not exactly carry a price tag, regardless of potential dollar value.

No doubt John Howard’s regulators would have turned a blind eye on a sudden jump in apparent Green media spending, but the then opposition Labor machine would have been all over it like stink on a monkey. But the fact remains, who would trust a crooked media outfit to deliver such a dodgy bribe?

Anti-corruption charter

I have already delivered my proposal, the new Charter. I repeat it here:

· The banning of all political donations, replaced by taxpayer funding

· All candidates, not parties, allocated an equal time/space in appropriate media

· All 3rd party advertising would be banned

· Ex members would be barred from holding any commercial position which relates to former elected responsibilities for two years. Ex members would be compensated with their elected entitlements for the duration of their gardening holiday.


lindsaylobe said...

Excellent – Probably very much as was intended in the spirit of our founding fathers, who didn’t even envisage political parties as such, but only representatives of their electorates. The whole idea of lobbyists is distasteful and a corrupting focus of non independent (if not corrupt) information with its slant or focus in thinking which by necessity seeks to gain an advantage. There is already ample opportunity through sub committees who have existing departments to seek out advice and can gather independent research from a number of accredited universities with existing relevant specializations should the government need to be updated on appropriate industry and policy initiatives. Best wishes

Cart said...

“…independent research from a number of accredited universities” Sorry Lindsay, logically I should have included academia in the argument, though perhaps not in the oversight process.
You are spot on with the fact that we have such a wealth of research talent in this country. There really isn’t much excuse for not using the full extent of our resources, except for the prevailing anti-intellectual culture.
Even an auto-didactic like me is frequently accused of being an academic, in the same as most base insults are delivered. That I should be accused is almost embarrassing, but it doesn’t bode well for those who deserve the honour rather than the insult.
What a delight it would be to see our governments using and extending the skills of our universities. Ahhhh, dreamtime…