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Morrison seeks to subvert 'foreign donation' laws to protect L-NP donors

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(Image via getup.org.au)

The Federal Government is trying to insert amendments to planned foreign donation laws to undermine more stringent state regulations, reports Noely Neate.

THE COALITION Australian Government is obviously on life support, just praying – in the case of "current" PM Scott Morrison, literally praying – that something will change in voter sentiment, or God will provide a big enough scare, to keep the dumb punters voting for the devil they know.

For mine, this means we need to be aware of their opportunistic and desperate attempts to make as many changes as they can before they are punted. This is usually in the form of top jobs on Government boards or entities to mates, legislation that looks innocuous but helps the party scam extra power, favours or cash, and of course the signing of heaps of contracts or consultancies to donors and other mates so the flow of Government funds to rent-seeking corporate donors and blood sucking "consultancy" firms are set in stone and can’t be changed by an incoming Government — think Great Barrier Reef Foundation and Foxtel handouts, times a hell of a lot more.

Personally, I hope the Press Gallery and other members of the Fourth Estate, who know this form, are onto it and keeping an eye out.

I hope. As this has already begun…

While everyone was distracted by the Wile E. Coyote antics of the Government's stacking of the ABC Board this week (who knew that tossing in mates to run big jobs they're not qualified for would blow up in your face?) you might have missed this little gem in the Guardian which is pretty bloody important:

'Coalition's changes to finance bill would override state bans on political donations'.

For the Coalition, it is always about the technicalities. How often, when MPs and ministers are pinged for rorting their expenses or other dodgy behaviour, they counter with: “It is within the guidelines”?

This is because the guidelines, codes of conduct and, quite frankly, often law, is always written to be full of loopholes to benefit themselves.

It looks like the amendments to the “Foreign Donations Bill” – yes, that bill supposedly to save us from foreigners interfering in our elections and Government ([cough] Rupert Murdoch [cough] wouldn’t be captured by it [sigh!]) – has a lovely little Easter egg in there to benefit our Federal politicians:

'Under the two new amendments donors would gain immunity from state and territory laws prohibiting gifts and imposing obligations to disclose donations, provided there is a connection to federal election spending.' 

This is a massive worry!

I don’t know about other states, but in Queensland, we have waited a very long time for any sort of transparency in this area and the changes that came into force this year by the Palaszczuk Government were a game-changer in the State of Joh — sadly, a momentous change that received very little fanfare nor kudos.

In a nutshell, the Queensland changes were:

Political donations had to be declared within seven days: Yes, you read that right, seven (7) days — not the dodgy 18 months or, hell, in some cases, years later like the Feds require.

But wait, there’s more…

These donations are reported in real time: (well next to as close to real time as you can get) online at the ECQ site, searchable and all. I kid you not, have a look at the Electronic Disclosure System.

The transparency doesn’t stop there my friends…

The donation declaration threshold was lowered to donations over $1000: Yes, no longer the dodgy $12,800 old mate CanDo raised it to, but down, down, down. (As a side note, the LNP in Queensland are still fighting this and wasting a ton of money fighting the disclosure of their previous donations in court [argh!].

The banning of developer donations is also a little gem. Although, of course, the Queenland LNP are not and yes, you guessed it, taking the developer ban to court as well [sigh!].

Open diaries for ministers and assistant ministers is another personal fave of mine.

Yeah, I’m still suss about some of the loopholes with this open diary business and other changes. Plus, of course, all this open information is obviously only worthwhile if you have a Fourth Estate interested in monitoring it and connecting the dots, but hey, for a child of the Joh years, this is sensational stuff.

So imagine my shock* at discovering the Federal Government would add in amendments to a bill that should have nothing to do with state donation laws, that could override and shaft this political donation transparency we are only just starting to enjoy in Queensland?

Labor MP Andrew Giles was quoted in the Guardian piece (which has gained next to no traction and is not being reported elsewhere that I know of):

'Giles said further hearings next week would ensure amendments do not produce “unintended consequences”.' 

“Unintended consequences”? WTF?! I think the ability to totally over-ride the tighter, more transparent and timely election donation laws of a State so that Federal politicians can continue to swerve being accountable for the rivers of dodgy spiv funds that flow to them is a bit more than an "unintended consequence"?

To his credit, Andrew Giles seems like a decent enough bloke, but… I would urge everyone who cares about money in politics and dodgy donation laws to hit up their Labor MPs, Greens MPs – hell, even your Coalition MPs if they will bother to take your call or email – and raise this issue with them.

SAVE DEMOCRACY: CONTACT YOUR MP!

As we have heard all week through the ABC saga, the 'Australian public trust the ABC more than Government', so hit up anyone you know at the ABC to take a serious look at this. Ask any media you know to take a look, if you can get them to listen to you. Also, while you are at it, hit up your state MPs, if you live in a state with tighter donation laws than the Feds — they may not be fans of being overriden either.

Of course, keep an eye on the last minute dodgy shite and time-bombs a Government that is on it’s way out start laying now in preparation for that kick out the door I mentioned at the beginning too?

May 2019 is not that far away and desperate people do desperate things, so we could have an election even sooner than that. 

And another nice little fun fact for you: 'Australians’ trust in government is at an all-time low'; only 35 per cent of us trust Government – and for pretty good reason in my opinion – so be alert and alarmed!

* Not really shocked.

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

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