Shock, horror – ACTU campaign funded by unions

Jamie Briggs is not the only person calling for electoral law reform that has already occurred. In today’s Crikey email they say:

…the role of third party activities must also be addressed. Nowhere in today’s figures will you see the cost of the union movement’s “Your Rights At Work” campaign, which was a major component in Labor’s victory.

But as The Age‘s report correctly noted, the political expenditure laws did require the ACTU to disclose the nearly $16 million they spent, mostly on the Your Rights at Work campaign. While this is of some interest to close followers of politics, it is hard to see why the ACTU should have to disclose it. That the ACTU was campaigning strongly on this issue was not exactly a secret. And who would have guessed that union donations paid for it?

GetUp! dislosed $1.3 million in expenditure, but less than $200,000 in donations, reflecting its large donor base. Their biggest single donors were Lonely Planet travel guide founders Maureen and Anthony Wheeler, who gave $82,500. More discreetly, $50,000 came from Jagen, the investment vehicle of the Liberman family. While lefties often like to parade their ‘social conscience’, it is hard to see why GetUp! should be forced to reveal this information. It does not tell us anything we need to know about GetUp!’s campaigns.

This data plus the political party donations also disclosed today shows that the left massively outspends the right in modern politics. It is not surprising – but not to their credit – that Liberal politicians want to throw as many bureaucratic obstacles in the left’s financial path as is possible. It is much less clear why Labor is going along with it, except that they been caught up in the groupthink surrounding this issue.

10 thoughts on “Shock, horror – ACTU campaign funded by unions

  1. Perhaps the ‘left’ are willing to go along with it because “lefties often like to parade their ’social conscience”, further, the ‘left’ actually don’t mind seeing an extreme ‘right’ winger squirm.

    I think the fact that the Liberal party is finding it more difficult to find funding is more a reflection of the hijacking of the party by the extreme right, forget “do I want my name exposed”, it has more to do with “do I want to support this nonsense”. Perhaps the politically homeless is not a small, poor group, but a large well funded group that once supported the liberal party, but not quite ready to support labor with anything more than their vote.


  2. Charles – The problem is not really that the Liberals are finding it harder to raise money – on a quick calculation they are up $17 million on the last campaign year. The explanation is the unions – an interest group that is highly partisan and aggressively uses politics to advance its interests. Business, appropriately, has a far more distant relationship with the political process.


  3. “Business, appropriately, has a far more distant relationship with the political process” – They can because the difference is that Labor is not idealogically opposed to business but rather likes to support the cause of unions (some of the time), but the Liberals are idealogically opposed to unions and will work against them, generally, whenever they can. So unions have to be more political – Business would be just as political if Labor was as anti-business as the Liberals were anti-union.


  4. “… the left massively outspends the right in modern politics”

    I think its very rash to draw such a general conclusion from one year’s figures in a small out-of-the-way democracy. 2007-8 was exceptional in Oz in two respects – the unions were unusually motivated by Workchoices, and Labor was a sure winner at both state and federal levels. Sensible lobbies and businesses back the likely winner, not the loser.


  5. Andrew

    If funding is up, what exactly is their problem, are they worried that people are getting in before their “shameful” behavior is exposed by the new laws. Let me guess, the coal industry.

    Right/left; business doesn’t care any more for the rot, many business people actually suspect Labor does a better job of running the economy. Keating brought in much needed changes, what did we get from Howard , work choices, many business’s neither needed it or wanted it, in fact many worried that a period of radical confrontation would be ushered in if Howard won ( it takes two to tango). Keating and Hawk brought the unions back into line, and that is all reasonable people wanted.


  6. Charles – Well I am sure business is reading the signals: rent-seeking is back, and on an unprecedented scale. As I noted in an earlier post, it is ironic that the people so worried about the misuse of public power in corporate interests are so silent about all this, while it is people on the right of politics who are complaining about it.


  7. What are example of rent-seeking that have occurred or are going to occur?

    And if this is the problem, why not loud condemnation and public donations to the Liberal party ( with a little push for the Liberal party to focus on rent seeking instead of attempting to justify their past budgetary behavior and dog whistles).


  8. Charles – I have just put up a post answering your question (or at least partly answering it, I have not included past handouts for the car industry or commercial property developers yet). What interests me is not just these handouts, but the signal it sends: that instead of offering products customers might want to buy, they should lobby governments for special deals. In my mind, one of the public policy successes of the last couple of decades has been to cut down on the incentives for this kind of behaviour. Rudd is undoing this.

    I have no objection to donations, only to bad public policy decisions.


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