Politics Editorial

Corrupting democracy — we need to say "FIN"

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

A political party with the sole purpose of eradicating Federal Government corruption has been registered in time for the next election, but may not make it to the starting gate. Investigations editor Ross Jones reports.

THIS WEEK, the Morrison Government provided new proof – if any was still required – that Australia needs to police its politicians.

As Independent Australia reported on Monday, the latest Morrison Government scam is to subvert our very democracy. One might think this would startle the electorate into outrage, but such is the depressed state of our populace, the move passed with nary a murmur.

The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Party Registration Integrity) Bill 2021 was introduced into Parliament on 12 August 2021, just months before the expected date of the next Federal election.

The Act makes it harder to establish a new political party. Much harder.

The amendment will require all non-parliamentary political parties in Australia to have 1,500 members — triple the current requirement.

A non-parliamentary party is one that does not have an elected member. All non-parliamentary parties – and there are currently 35 – will have three months to prove to the AEC they have more than 1,500 members or be they will be struck off.

Why did this happen? Well, the upcoming Federal election, which can be any time before 31 May next year, is evenly poised — perhaps even pointing towards a Coalition demolition. But such hopes proved ill-founded last time around, despite Bill Shorten establishing with each passing day that he would have been the better choice for PM.

Newspoll currently has Labor ahead by a significant margin. You might believe these polls. You might also believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. You might even, having fallen from the heavens in the last late-winter deluge, be callow enough to trust a polling company owned and endorsed by Rupert Murdoch.

The bookies, however, are more circumspect and have this two dead horse race at even money.

Nevertheless, something has spooked the Liberals. Although he is clearly the better choice as PM, it is difficult to conceive that Anthony Albanese – a man currently so effortlessly anodyne it is hard to conceive him waking a hypertense mongoose with a nuclear-powered bullhorn – is the reason.

In what little media this indefensible move of messing with the democratic process has received, speculation suggests the goal was to hamstring the nascent so-called “New” Liberals. The New Liberals political party, led by Sydney lawyer Victor Kline, has already successfully stared down the “Old” Liberals in the courts over the name.

The OLs petitioned the AEC about people being confused by the similarity between the new and the old Parties’ names. But that contest was lost a decade ago, when David Lleyonhjelm’s Liberal Democrats floundered onto Australia’s political scene, knocking over tables and pot plants left and right, before ending arse-up in a flower bed, yet still somehow inexplicably unscathed.

Back then, the Coalition pulled a bunny out of the hat; this time around, they are trying to whip the table cloth from under the carefully set pieces of Australian democracy. And by so doing tilt the odds even further in their favour.

The requirement of 500 members, introduced in 1918, has stood the test of time. Until now, when the Morrison Government decided this time-honoured piece of democracy was a possible impediment to its re-election chances.

These chances are already pretty good because the Government has News Corp in the wings, ready and waiting to unleash its full might. Last time it was “Kill Bill”, one can only hazard a guess as to the diabolical plans which await the more peacebuilding-style of Albanese.

The Indigenous-Aboriginal Party of Australia and Federal ICAC Now have been approved for registration and are waiting out the AEC’s mandatory 30-day objection period.

A massive and sudden change in membership requirements with a scant three months to recruit new members will be the end of several parties, especially those with limited reach and resources and will limit this democratic process to the wealthy and the connected.

It’s not just today’s parties that will suffer, it’s tomorrow’s.

Simply put, the constructed artifice of the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Party Registration Integrity) Bill 2021 gives the Coalition the opportunity to clear the competitive decks and enhance its chances of total senate dominance in 2022 and beyond.

This new scam of government opportunism hits home at IA.

We have a long and proud history of exposing political corruption and malfeasance.

Among other scandals and corruption, IA peeled back the layers of the Kathy Jackson affair – Jacksonville as it became known – while most media sources fell for the Tony Abbott lie that she was a hero whistle-blower.

We pursued and investigated the Ashbygate affair, exposing L-NP dirty tricks to overturn an election result. Funded by our readers, IA published the book Ashbygate: The plot to destroy Australia’s speaker — a forensic analysis of Australia’s greatest political scandal.

We have exposed corruption at the highest levels, with “Watergate”, the Barnaby Joyce affair, the dubious antics of Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate and many, many more.

Through all this, IA has remained strictly non-partisan; we value truth and integrity above all else.

But we really hate corruption. It is democracy’s greatest threat.

For this reason, IA supports the principle of the formation of a political party committed to fighting corruption.

The single-issue party of Federal ICAC Now (FIN) has a sole objective: the establishment of an adequately funded, staffed and empowered Federal independent commission against corruption.

If you are wealthy – think Clive Palmer – you can just buy Craig Kelly off the Parliament bench and, hey presto! — you have got yourself a registered political party with which to create as much mayhem as you like.

It is a different story for everyone else.

So far, FIN has won the first round and gained approval as a political party.

And it is entirely possible FIN – with its commitment to fight corruption – is one of the main targets of this latest anti-democratic push by the Morrison Government.

If you support the establishment of a party dedicated to stamping out corruption, which has reached plague proportions in our Federal political scene, please consider supporting or joining Federal ICAC Now (FIN) here.

This is an abridged version of an editorial originally published in the IA's weekly newsletter. Subscribe now to read the full version online in the IA members-only area.

Investigations editor Ross Jones is a licensed private enquiry agent and the author of 'Ashbygate: The Plot to Destroy Australia's Speaker'. You can follow Ross on Twitter @RPZJones.

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