Australia Yabsley opens fire on political targets left, right and centre — and doesn’t miss

14:21  25 november  2021
14:21  25 november  2021 Source:   crikey.com.au

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Michael Yabsley’s Dark Money isn’t merely a 10-point plan for reform of political donations and election spending, aimed at decoupling donations from policy and decision-making, but the extended screed of a former insider who has turned on the system he mastered and is determined that voters should understand just how dangerous it is.

  Yabsley opens fire on political targets left, right and centre — and doesn’t miss © Provided by Crikey

There’s a palpable hit on every page as the former federal treasurer of the Liberal Party opens fire.

On the role of fundraising in careers:

At preselection the ability to “raise the loot” is an unofficial KPI. Preselectors love to find a good fundraiser as the next candidate, for obvious reasons. Money can mean the difference between winning and losing at preselection.

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On Sunland (which involved Stuart Robert making a speech for a Liberal donor):

Disgraced NSW Prisons Minister Rex Jackson may have been able to take bribes to get people out of jail. In the Sunland case it was dark money that kept wrongly accused Australians in jail. They were eventually rescued by clever, below the radar diplomatic and political manoeuvrings. Watch this space. This story needs to be told as an exemplar to clean up the system. Me simply writing this means there will be sweaty palms. You know who you are.

On Malcolm Turnbull:

… recall Malcolm Turnbull’s $1.75 million donation to the Liberal Party in 2017. Buying the keys to The Lodge is a bad look. The self-serving generosity of that donation had more than a whiff about it of American politics.

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On Clive Palmer:

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I’m about as big a fan of small government, minimal regulation, cutting red tape and live and let live as you will find. But does that mean I think a financial colossus should be allowed to throw $80 million at a political campaign? No, I don’t. Democracy is something of a hybrid between robust and resilient – but it’s fragile at the same time. And precious. No, a billionaire should not be allowed to threaten the equilibrium of democracy with a dollar-driven ballot box coup.

How serious is this?

Our democratic system will continue to weaken unto death. Australia will risk becoming – to quote Paul Keating – a political ‘banana republic’ rather than the democratic global exemplar we need to be. Especially in the context of the rise of China.

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Business observer programs and private dinners:

Far more audacious and largely unscrutinised are the opaquely named ‘business observer programmes’ (BOP’s) run by political parties in tandem with party conferences. The BOP’s capitalise on the fact that these conferences are attended by large numbers of leaders, ministers and shadow ministers. Dark money insiders used to call BOP’s the ‘speed dating’ circuit of politics. These days, it’s more like ‘Tinder’… If party conference organisers don’t believe there’s something wrong with this practice, why do they ban journalists covering these conferences from access to the ‘Tinder’ rooms? Again: ‘nothing to see here’. Not much, except an orgy of political whoring.

The inescapable fact is these events are subverting our democracy. Constituents are meant to have equal access to their elected representatives… The cost to the integrity of the democratic system from these ‘speed dating, government for rent’ offerings is immeasurable.

In the integrity stakes BOP’S are slow-moving targets compared to the intimate ‘private dinners arranged for corporate heavyweights for the sole purpose of getting the privileged — paid for — ear of government. Before anyone beats me to it, yes, I have organised these dinners between donors and ministers right to the top of the political food chain. Yes, it is pay to play. The private dinners are often held at Parliament House.

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Getting photographed with a donor:

It’s about getting that special photo with the minister to hang on the wall in the office. A signal to everybody who walks through the door about your connections. About what you can get done. Provided the dark money is right. These corporate happy snaps are a minefield for government leaders and ministers. There are many stressed smiles as political heavyweights pose repeatedly for selfies at fundraising functions with donors and supporters, not having a clue about the company they are keeping. Until, sitting in the witness box, the SC at ICAC tells them.

NSW corruption:

Prima facie, if the Obeid/McDonald convictions suggest giving a leg up to a donor falls within the scope of misuse of public office laws, every second person from the top down in Macquarie Street would be caught in this net. And so they should be.

Public funding:

In many respects public funding is a more serious rort than anything that may come from private donors for the simple reason it is taxpayers’ money. At least donors get asked to put their hands in their pocket. Taxpayers aren’t even given a choice.

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