Democracy rests on public trust, so the report in The Age that a Moreland ALP councillor has received donations from firms with alleged close criminal connections, is particularly disturbing. It raises immediate questions for Moreland Council, especially: which council decisions relied on his vote and need to be reviewed? As he is an active ALP member, there may be decisions within the local Labor party that require a similar review.
But this also reminds us how poorly Victoria’s political system is protected from the influence of anyone with a big cheque book, and how big a risk this poses to our political culture, starting right at the local level.
There is no limit to the amount of money a political campaign can spend. There is no limit to the size of donations that political parties can accept. And our anti-corruption body, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, has very limited powers to investigate.
Victorian Greens MPs have repeatedly moved to limit both political donations and spending, and to ban donations from property developers. So far there has been no support from Labor or Liberal. The Greens have also called for the state’s Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission to gain powers similar to New South Wales’ ICAC, which has brought many shady dealings to light in recent years.
These measures may not have prevented the actions of which this councillor is accused. But they would have an enormous impact across our political culture, and shout out loud and clear that dodgy donations are political poison for anyone who accepts them.
It’s time the other parties joined forces with the Greens, and took strong action in support of Victoria’s political transparency and integrity. It’s the least they can do, when they’re asking for your vote.