Cracking down on dissent

Today’s media carries two stories about the increasing arrogance and authoritarianism of elements of the political class in dealing with people with contrary views.

In what looks to be linked to a quietly announced parliamentary review of campaign finance, Bob Brown has said that he will move to ban donations from tobacco companies. It’s a continuation of the ‘picking losers’ approach adopted in NSW. My nearly done campaign finance paper says of NSW:

It sets a dangerous precedent: governments legislating to reduce the political options of industries that it dislikes or sees as troublesome or unpopular. ‘Junk’ food manufacturers, retailers, and carbon-intensive industries are the obvious next candidates for such treatment. Rather than picking winners, government picks losers by using its power to politically disable organisations opposed to it and its allies.

Suggesting a very slow news day, The Age leads with a story that Crown casino has appointed former ALP secretary Karl Bitar as a lobbyist.

Populist senator Nick Xenophon was reported as saying

“The appointment showed the need in Australia for American and British-style lobbying bans that would prevent politicians and government staffers from exploiting their contacts in Canberra for at least two years after leaving politics…”

Leave aside that Bitar held no government position. This proposal would almost certainly worsen the quality of people in politics, because it significantly increases the risks of an already risky occupation. It means that politicians and staffers can’t work in their area of interest or skills for two years after a stint in Canberra (disclosure: I took a job with some lobbying after working as a ministerial adviser).

If Xenophon sticks around long enough he will get a generous pension. Other people who work in politics actually have to work for a living after leaving. *
The pollies saying they are trying to reduce ‘undue’ influence. In reality, they are trying to diminish any influence.
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* A reader has helpfully reminded me that pollies elected since 2004 do not get a pension.

3 Responses to “Cracking down on dissent

  • 1
    Rajat Sood
    May 26th, 2011 08:52

    I thought you were going to refer to this story about Gillard and Swan trying to hamstring the Murdoch press.

  • 2
    Andrew Norton
    May 26th, 2011 19:45

    I am not a Daily Telegraph reader! Though I do have a little sympathy for the government on this one. The News Ltd papers do tend to go over the top against this government.

  • 3
    Jeremy
    May 27th, 2011 04:36

    ” The News Ltd papers do tend to go over the top against this government.”

    Is that possible?

    They really are plumbing new depths of incompetence and contempt for the public.