The federal government has banned blind trusts, which are a way for members of the public to make an anonymous donation to ministers, in its new code of conduct after the set Christian Porter disaster.
Do you remember Christian Porter? I never thought I would write about him again, but he was the former attorney general and Liberal MP who, in 2021, was charged with historic rape. He sued the ABC for defamation for publishing the allegations and had his legal costs paid in part by a blind trust.
Porter disclosed the donations in his declaration of interests but did not reveal where they came from because he said he literally did not know. Not cool.
Labor tried to get the Liberal government to investigate and force it to release the identities of the donors. Obviously, the government put an end to that and voted against it in Parliament. NOT FKN COOL.
But Porter pulled off his defo suit and the public outcry was too strong to ignore, so he resigned from the party and quit politics.
Labor has pledged to change the code of conduct if it wins the federal election and the time is finally right. Two changes relating to blind trusts were made to the new guidance released on Friday.
“Ministers will have no direct involvement. Ministers are required to divest themselves of their holdings, except in pension funds and other broadly diversified managed funds. There will be no ‘blind trust’ arrangements,” the code reads.
“Ministers will be personally responsible for their private interests. Ministers will not be allowed to delegate this responsibility to anyone, such as under a ‘blind trust’ agreement.
If a minister breaks the code, he will likely lose his job.
The new code is an election promise kept by the Prime Minister Anthony Albanian that his government would be “open and accountable”.
“I expect ministers to uphold the highest standards in their professional and personal lives,” he said in a statement.
Transparency is crucial in a functioning democracy so that everyone can know where the interests of MPs lie and can make informed decisions about who to vote for. Allowing anonymous donations goes against that.
But Australia’s political donation system is notoriously under-regulated.
Only donations over $15,200 must be fully declared by recipients as of July 1, 2022, which means donors can theoretically drip payouts of $15,199 to pollies and stay out. from the public donation registry. Basically, our political parties are *undoubtedly* getting a lot more money under the table than we know.
And that disclosure threshold increases of about a grand each financial year. It’s all screwed up and make no mistake about it: work greatly benefits from it.
This new code of conduct is a step in the right direction, but if the government is to be truly accountable, it still has a long way to go.
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