Friday, June 24, 2016

The Price of Politics

Here's Wendy Carlisle's introduction to Background Briefing's latest (19/6/16) feature, The Price of Politics, on Radio National:

"If you want to know who's funding your politician's election campaign before voting on Saturday week, you'll be waiting a very long time. In fact, you'll have to wait a year after next. Australia's political donations laws are so lax the full list of donors and what they've spent won't be known until February 2018. But now there's a new report into political spending by the big end of town which shows just how little we really know about what our top companies are up to. For the first time the top ASX companies have been given a transparency score which is designed to measure just what those companies are up to and what they're telling their shareholders about their political spend. Di Martin has this report for Background Briefing.

"This federal election will be the first since explosive allegations about political donations were made in NSW's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). It heard how the Liberal Party got around the strictest donation laws in the country, laws that banned property developers' donations in NSW. Yet donations made by property developers to a federal Liberal fundraising body were then routed back into NSW party coffers."

Then came a familiar, gravelly voice:

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to welcome you to the 2016 annual general meeting of Westfield Corporation."

Di Martin continued:

"Frank Lowy's Westfield is one of the property developers whose donation of $150,000 ended up with the NSW Liberals."

Lowy again:

"The meeting is now open for questions and general discussion."

Then Martin:

"One of the first is from Stephen Mayne. He's standing in the federal election on a ticket of reforming political donations law. He's also a Westfield shareholder: 'When we made that donation in December 2010 were we aware that that money was going to be finishing up with the NSW Liberal Party when developer donations in NSW had been banned at that point?'"

To which Lowy predictably replied:

"We made the donations appropriately according to the law and the inquiries that were held after that have said we have not been advised of anything that we have done contrary to what is expected of us."

The underlying assumption here, of course, is that Westfield's 2010 donation was all about greasing the wheels for more shopping malls. But is there any real need to keep a naturally neoliberal, Liberal government sweet? Could there, perhaps, be another reason for the donation?

I have no idea. None whatever. But what I do know is that Lowy is an unabashed supporter of Israel and that the Liberal regimes of NSW premiers Barry O'Farrell (2011-15) and Mike Baird (2015-) have outdone all previous NSW and other state governments in demonstrating their love and affection for the apartheid state. (Simply click on the O'Farrell/Baird labels below and marvel at its manifestations and extent.)

Needless to say, this bizarre phenomenon is not touched on in Background Briefing's otherwise invaluable report.

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