Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions

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Does your business feel compelled to donate to the major political parties?

Does your business feel compelled to donate to the major political parties or attend a particular political party event?  If so, you’re not alone.

Recently the Grattan Institute studied political donations in Australia and confirmed what many know to be the case.  If you want to do business sometimes you feel obligated to reach deep into your pocket and hand over cash to the major political parties.

Is it necessary? Well in theory no it is not, yet so many businesses across Queensland feel it to be a must. This grey area is discussed in detail in the Grattan report and four key points can be discerned:

  • Queenslanders and Australians are concerned about the power of special interest groups;
  • Groups with the most to gain contribute more and accordingly get more access;
  • Relationships with politicians matter and can be bought through donations or attending functions; and
  • Access can lead to influence.

Key quotes from the report include:

"Australians are rightly concerned about the role of special interests in politics. Even a healthy democracy like Australia’s can be vulnerable to policy capture. Well-resourced interests – such as big business, unions and not-for-profits – use money, resources and relationships to influence policy to serve their interests, at times at the expense of the public interest. Even if they are only sometimes successful, it’s not the ‘fair go’ Australians expect.

Access to decision makers is vital for anyone seeking to influence policy. But some groups get more access than others. Businesses with the most at stake in government decisions lobby harder and get more meetings with senior ministers.

Money and relationships can boost access: time with ministers and their shadows is explicitly ‘for sale’ at fundraising dinners, and major donors are more likely to get a meeting with a senior minister. And more than one-quarter of politicians go on to post-politics jobs for special interests, where their relationships can help open doors.

Donations build relationships and a sense of reciprocity. And the fact that industries in the cross-hairs of policy debate sometimes donate generously and then withdraw once the debate has moved on suggests they believe, perhaps rightly, that money matters."

I do not necessarily agree with everything in the Grattan report but it certainly makes for compelling reading. The report can be found here

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