Australia Institute: political donations cost democracy

A FORMER Greens advisor has called for an end to commercial donations to political parties.

Dr Richard Deniss, who is now progressive think tank The Australia Institute's executive director, said at the Accountability Conference in Brisbane that commercial political donations came at a cost to Australian democracy.

Dr Deniss said, at the conference being held this week, corporate donations caused non-voting entities to have a huge say in political outcomes.

"Corporations can't vote," he said.

"Democracy doesn't ask corporations about what they think about anything every three years.

"It asks the shareholders in those companies what they think, but we don't actually ask companies what they think, for the pretty obvious reason that they are a legal construct and not a voting person.

"So why, to what end do we allow donations from corporate entities at all?"

He said while politicians denied donations had any impact on their decision-making, CEOs would not make them if they were for nothing.

"What does industry think they're getting when they donate hundreds of thousands of dollars?" he said.

"There's a contradiction at the heart of our public debate.

"The politicians are adamant it gets them nothing.

"Yet again, if I'm the CEO of a listed company I can't chuck shareholders' money away with no expectation of return."

Before directing the left-leaning think tank, Dr Deniss worked for former Greens leader Bob Brown and as chief of staff for Democrats leader Natasha Stott Despoja.

Other panel members, including former Queensland integrity commissioner Dr David Solomon, agreed political donations should be made more transparent.

- APN NEWSDESK



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