I’m one of the few people who thinks that regulation of political donations already goes too far, at least for NGOs. But I think there is some common ground that nobody – whether donors or not – should get special treatment that would not be given to other persons or organisations with the same relevant characteristics.
However, differences arise on this issue because I, like Mark Latham, see the central problem as inappropriate levels of political discretion. If discretion exists, we can hardly blame constituents for trying to take advantage, or politicians hoping to win support from offering advantage. We cannot be surprised when people follow the incentives a system creates. To the extent that constituents attempt to win special favours by donations this is a symptom of a deficient system rather than the cause of a deficient system.
This is why I think that Joo-Cheong Tham, writing in The Age this morning, is mistaken in arguing that the fact that John Grant did not get special treatment does not make a significant difference to how we should assess the case. When Treasury can repeatedly raise a particular case (indeed, cases) with a company seeking financial guarantees from the Commonwealth and get nowhere it suggests that the policy integrity system is working. Read the rest of this entry »