The Rum Corps Redux

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Looking at the procession of NSW politicians recently caught by ICAC with their fingers in the till, it is hard to tell if this is a bizarre new reality television series called “Good politicians gone bad” or even “Politicians gone wild” or just a continuation of The Rum Corps type corruption which has plagued NSW since the earliest days of the colony. At this rate, ICAC is going to bring the paper bag industry to its knees within days.

For those who are playing catch up, the following laws are particularly relevant to donations by property developers (there is other legislation governing political donations but these are the main ones relating to property developers):

  1. Local Government and Planning Legislation Amendment (Political Donations) Act 2008, which commenced on 1 October 2008 requires the public disclosure of donations or gifts when lodging or commenting on development proposals. This law is designed to improve the transparency of the planning system; and
  2. Election Funding and Disclosures Amendment (Property Developers Prohibition) Act 2009, which commenced on 14 December 2009 made it an offence for a property developer to make a political donation as well as unlawful for a person to accept a political donation from a property developer.

Now stay with me people, this does get interesting.

So notwithstanding the above, and as a simple Google search will confirm, political donations to property developers have not stopped.

Call me crazy, but why would a property developer risk breaking the law and appearing in front of ICAC as well as incurring the various penalties, to give money to a politician for simply altruistic reasons. There must be something in it for them.

As Ted Mack (the only person ever to have been elected and re-elected as an independent to local, state, and federal government in Australia) said recently, the Labor and Liberal parties are “like two mafia families seeking control of the public purse for distribution to themselves, supporters, and the special interests who fund them”.

But should we be surprised? After all, I think this exchange from Yes Minister explained it all 30 years ago:

Hacker:             Are you saying that winking at corruption is government policy?

Sir Humphrey:   No, no, Minister! It could never be government policy. That is unthinkable! Only government practice.

Hacker:             You’re a cynic, Humphrey!

Sir Humphrey:   A cynic is what an idealist calls a realist.

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