How do we bring out the best in our democracy?
Australia has a proud democratic tradition, but there are loopholes in our system that leave it vulnerable to corruption.
The fact that companies can secretly donate millions to political parties and lobby them behind closed doors, creates too many risks.
Secret donations and lobbying create backchannels to decision-making. This means those with the more money and power get more access to politicians – and the most potential to influence policy decisions.
We need to be able to trust that the people we elect to Parliament are prioritising the common good, rather than their donors and friends.
By closing the backchannels to power created by opaque donations and lobbying, we can build a fairer and more democratic process.
With greater transparency, we can ensure government decisions, spending and services are fair, honest and meet the needs of the community.
Transparency International Australia is calling for:
- Full transparency over who is giving money to political parties, and how much
- Full transparency over who is trying to influence politicians, and why
- Fair and merit-based public funding decisions and job appointments
- Greater transparency over government decision-making
- Fair and honest election campaign advertising
uNDUE INFLUENCE AND STATE CAPTURE
Interest groups, such as companies, peak bodies or professional or community groups, try to influence the policy decision-making process in several ways. Interest group influence is not corrupt or illegitimate – it is our democratic right to speak to our politicians, but when it is opaque and disproportionate it may lead to undue influence, corruption and even state capture. Read more
Fair, honest democracy
Federal elections should be a fair contest of the best values and ideas.
However, election campaigns and party policies risk being distorted when corporations channel huge amounts of money into political parties and when parties run dishonest advertising campaigns.
Because the federal government has some of the weakest political donation laws in the country, we can’t see who is giving money to political parties until months after an election. This creates a risk that political parties favour their donors rather than work for the common good.
Meanwhile, in the fake news era, we’re seeing some worryingly misleading political campaign ads. This contributes to the public’s growing distrust of political parties.
Open, trustworthy decision making
Our government works for us. Its processes and decisions should be open to the public.
However, too often deals are made in the dark, huge donations are made to political parties in secret, and high-powered lobbying campaigns are conducted behind closed doors. This leads to a risk that government funding and policy decisions favour corporate donors rather than the common good.
When government decision-making is transparent, the public can see and hold to account important policy and funding decisions.
Political donations and lobbying should be transparent so that we can see who, and why, a group or corporation might be trying to influence politics.
FAIR USE OF PUBLIC FUNDS
Our government should always ensure that public funds are spent efficiently and fairly.
However too often public money is wasted on projects that benefit political parties or on salaries for their friends.
When public funds are channelled into projects where a government wants to win votes or please voters – at the expense of the greater common good – this creates waste, poor policy outcomes and promotes a corrupt culture.
We can minimise the risk of pork barrelling and ‘jobs for mates’ by ensuring that public spending is only and always allocated on merit, in an open tender process, with clear and transparent rules.