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Every donation comes with an invoice to pay
Michael Yabsley, who says that he has been immersed in political fundraising for almost 45 years, as treasurer of the Liberal Party in NSW and honorary federal treasurer of the Liberal Party, writes well as the gamekeeper on political donations about a plague within our governing system (“Political ‘virus’ must be suppressed”, Comment, 18/10). There is, however, a line that raises concern: “To be fair, most who donate do not have an expectation of a return.”
One would have to ask then, why donate? Each donation is given with an intent to gain influence or effect change in some way. Be that to fund a political party that has policy that is favourable, or to stop another that has policies that are not favourable to the donator.
Every donation comes with an invoice to pay.
Tom Stafford, Wheelers Hill
Removing the danger of moral hazard
While I agree with Michael Yabsley that allowing political donations from entities such as businesses or unions constitutes a danger to democracy, I feel he too quickly dismisses public funding of parties by the government and calls it a rort without really justifying this.
True, basing the sum each party receives on the number of votes it gets would smack of a spoils system, but, unlike sports facilities and railway car parks, politicians would have no control over who benefits or how much they do.
His question about why parties should get a “royalty” for every vote could be answered: “It removes the danger of moral hazard.” Yabsley’s arguments remind me of mid-Victorian era notions of what is best for a person’s character. I can’t see how hitting the telephones or having to attend open-to-all fundraising dinners will diminish the amount of upholstery on a politician’s backsides, much less make them better people.
The only issue I can see is obtaining meaningful consent for taxpayer funding from taxpayers themselves.
Brian McGuire, Glen Waverley
Parliamentary democracies are threatened by this
Michael Yabsley is right and should be commended. Donations from organisations threaten parliamentary democracies, worldwide – so ban them. Let individuals give up to a ceiling annually, with election costs carried by the Australian Electoral Commission and funding to parties based on votes cast.
Then elections can no longer be bought.
John Miller, Toorak
We need spending caps and public funding
It is great that Michael Yabsley has joined calls for reforms to our system of funding elections. However, his solution is inadequate. As the OECD has pointed out, the problem with political donations is that they make politicians and political parties beholden to their donors and not to voters. Thus, public policy and laws become skewed to the interests of wealthy donors, be they individuals, businesses or organisations.
Australian elections are costly compared to other countries, due to the vast amounts of private donations fed into the system. For example, parties in Australian Federal elections collectively spend more than five times as much per voter as parties spend in Canadian elections.
There are two critical reforms to make politicians and parties more responsive to voters than donors. The first would be to cap the amount of money spent in elections, reducing the need for candidates and parties to chase favours from donors. The second is to ensure most of the funding for elections is public funding, again to reduce any sense of reciprocity politicians have to their donors. For the vast majority of OECD countries, three-quarters or more of funds for elections is public money.
Mark Zirnsak, Uniting Church in Australia
The real hostages
How can Barnaby Joyce be taken seriously when he states the Nationals won’t be held hostage over calls for tougher action on climate change when it’s patently obvious the opposite is happening. Were he to read any number of recent polls he would see that the number of people in favour of strong action on climate change is overwhelming.
It is those people who are being held to ransom by a party whose primary vote was less than the Greens at the 2019 election.
Brandon Mack, Deepdene
A travesty of democracy
It’s not enough that the federal government feels it needs to appease the vested interests in the fossil-fuel sector. They are now having to appease the handful of recalcitrant members of the National Party in order to cobble together their plan for net zero emissions for 2050.
What a travesty of democracy this is that, having had eight years in government to come up with a plan, Agriculture Minister and deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud claims “we’re going to take the time to get it right”.
I’m not holding my breath for an ambitious plan to achieve what is needed.
Without a hint of irony, Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce claims “we won’t be held hostage”. It is the Nationals who are holding the entire country and its future generations hostage by their procrastination and prevarication.
Nick Toovey, Beaumaris
This is what we don’t like
I read the article about retired state MP Tim Holding’s foray into chateau renovation in the French countryside “Home sweet chateau” (Good Weekend, 16/10) at first aghast, and then with anger.
Mr Holding muses, wondering what Australians would think if taxpayers funded foreigners owning pieces of their national history (the French government apparently will be stumping up more than $1 million for him to get a new roof and walls of his new house). His guess is we “wouldn’t love it”.
Well, actually, what we don’t love is the fact he is receiving a taxpayer-funded pension of more than $100,000 each year, I imagine it’s a lifelong arrangement, and cripes, he is only 49.
What made me so angry is that not a centime of that is spent in Australia. And all the while, my young adult children can’t afford a modest flat in Melbourne.
Piri Davidson, St Kilda West
An expensive keystroke
Your guide in Traveller (“What to know when you go”, The Age, 16/10) is comprehensive and informative.
In the section “What’s the waiting time for a passport renewal and why do Australians pay so much for them?” you write “DFAT insists that the cost of the Australian passport reflects the cost of its production and its requisite robust checks on applicants”.
So what, are all the other countries issuing passports slack in their checks? And how does this explain that five-year validity passport costs $152, but a 10-year validity passport cost $301?
This means the cost for the additional five years is basically the same again (just $3 less), yet this extension does not require any additional further checks or any further production costs, unless they are talking about an additional character change from five years to 10 years in the typing … DFAT, stop ripping us off.
Rich Gard, Glen Iris
The hidden curfew
I didn’t have to look at the byline on the piece about Melbourne’s curfew (“Ready to reclaim the night”, The Sunday Age, 17/10) to know that it was written by a man.
While I understand the rationale behind the piece, we might do well to ponder the notion that for most women in Melbourne (and the majority of places in the world) a night-time “curfew” is a necessity to prevent placing themselves in potential harm from predatory men.
Please don’t forget that many people in the world are not “free” to do what they please, regardless of COVID, because of the violent and controlling actions of others.
Naomi Crafti, South Yarra
Even more concerning …
The United Australia Party’s Craig Kelly claims the party has more members than the three leading parties and if this is correct, it is a major concern.
What is more concerning, however, is that the National Party has less than 5 per cent of the popular vote and 10 lower house seats, while the Greens, with more than 10 per cent of the popular vote, have only one seat in the lower house.
This brings back memories of the gerrymandering that Joh Bjelke-Petersen was so adept at in Queensland and is also mirrored in the United States, where voters in lightly populated states such as Idaho, North and South Dakota have a six-to-one advantage over the more populous states like New York and California. America flogs the democracy brand all the time but certainly does not demonstrate it with the distorted allocations that exist currently.
Whatever happened to one person one vote?
Rob Park, Surrey Hills
Introduce the legislation …
It is time for Scott Morrison to demonstrate that he actually is the Prime Minister.
He should introduce legislation to mandate “net zero” by 2050 and have it passed with the support of the opposition and the crossbench.
That would make the National Party irrelevant, which is what their political games show should be their status in the Australian political landscape.
William Wallace, Ascot Park, SA
… get tough with the Nats
Scott Morrison should treat Barnaby Joyce and the Nationals in the same way Gladys Berejiklian treated John Barilaro and his Nationals when he tried to hold the NSW government to ransom.
Call his bluff and offer to remove members of the Nationals from their ministerial positions.
This current situation really shows we are being run by a minority party being dictated to by an out of touch fringe group with whom they have a secret pact that the voters do not have access to.
The next federal election should prove very interesting.
Ruth Hudnott, Canterbury
We are forever changed
So many articles hyping up returning to normalcy in the coming weeks. The world is forever changed and life will not return to “normal” and nor should it.
There are many salient lessons to be learnt from our lived experience in this global pandemic, practically, economically, personally, environmentally, socially and emotionally. Let us take heed and move boldly forward.
Julie Perry, Highton
The road not taken
Surrounded by the evidence that the evolution of renewable technologies continues to disrupt and redirect money away from fossil fuels, Queensland Nationals senator Matt Canavan now rejects hydrogen technology as being nothing but a wing and a prayer.
Will his constituents be forgiving when they realise that he has led them into job obsolescence rather than into a transition to sustainable longer term jobs in renewables and associated industries?
Paul Miller, Box Hill South
A built-in weakness
The policy gridlock over a net-zero target is a reminder of the inherent weakness of Coalition governments.
With a slim majority in Parliament, the power-sharing arrangement leaves far too much space in crucial decision-making for the whim of internal factions and party loyalties.
When neither party can govern in its own right, policy gridlocks are bound to occur – all the while the nation suffers.
Kirk Weeden, Frankston
Curb your consumption
Your correspondent writes about the “just in time” adaptations that capitalism is making to deal with the world’s environmental crises. He concludes by wondering whether these changes will be enough (Letters, 18/10).
I suggest the things he mentions are all necessary, but not sufficient, to avert disaster.
Extractive capitalism predictably creates tragedies of the commons such as climate change, plastic and other pollution and land degradation. How much of this is integral to the system is unclear, but it is definitely enabled by underlying cultural attitudes.
Rampant consumption is the root cause, and this is the culture being spread across the world. We need to be happy with less. To find more despite having fewer things. To do this we have to change culture. Only by deriving more good from interactions than possessions can we avert disaster.
Michael Puck, Maffra
People inclined to vote for a Liberal candidate at the next federal election should remember that they are voting for a Liberal Party and National Party Coalition in which the Nationals have disproportionate influence.
The Liberal Party should divorce itself from its junior partner and aspire to govern in its own right even if that means in a minority government needing support from independents and other parties.
Australians will get a much more accountable government if we have a strong contingent of centrist independents in Parliament with whom the major parties need to negotiate.
Tony Ralston, Balwyn North
Take things slowly
With new cases still sitting at about 2000 a day (remember how alarmed we were at 700-new-cases days last year?) many sensible people (not depressed or suffering from clinical anxiety) won’t change much on Friday. The modelling is still quite grim, the systems yet to be tested and the benefits uncertain.
Please help regional Victoria by staying out of it, don’t abandon masks and take things slowly.
Alison Fraser, Ascot Vale
Just ignore them
It is ludicrous a group of Nationals can sabotage the will of the majority of Australians on climate action.
Show some courage Liberals and ignore the Nationals. What could they do? Sit on the backbenches and vote with the Greens or Labor?
Ralph Frank, Malvern East
AND ANOTHER THING
With an election due and the National tail again wagging the Liberal dog, it really is time we voters got a look at that secret agreement between these parties.
Mark Freeman, Macleod
You’re the kidnappers, Barnaby, we’re the hostages.
Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills
The Nationals’ problem is they are trying to sell horseshoes to an e-car world.
Patrick Edgeworth, Elwood
It’s time to de-Nationalise.
Tim Durbridge, Brunswick
Victorians deserve better than a federal Treasurer playing politics while we face a life-and-death pandemic.
James Young, Mount Eliza
It’s time for the Liberal Party and National Party to split and each go their own way. Then bring on the election.
Russell Castley, Creswick
If Scott Morrison is genuine in his concerns about net zero by 2050, he will call Barnaby Joyce’s bluff and threaten to stand pro-action Liberal candidates in every National-held seat at the next election.
John Green, Beaumaris
You can test a child’s development by asking them whether they would like to have one piece of chocolate now, or have the whole block later. Sadly, the government’s response to climate change is the first option.
Huw Dann, Blackburn
Take all the time that you need, guys. There is no need to rush on climate policy.
Peter Randles, Pascoe Vale South
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says they are going to take the time necessary to get their policy right. The time to get it right was more than a decade ago.
Alan Inchley, Frankston
Impressive, more than two weeks for a letter to travel from Caulfield to Hawthorn. Well done, Australia Post.
Catherine Kelly, Hawthorn
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