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Reform needed to regulate corporate influence on our politicians


31 January 2022 at 3:40 pm
Nikki Stefanoff
“Big industries like fossil fuels and gambling are distorting democratic processes to win political outcomes that put their profits ahead of our wellbeing.” 


Nikki Stefanoff | 31 January 2022 at 3:40 pm


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Reform needed to regulate corporate influence on our politicians
31 January 2022 at 3:40 pm

“Big industries like fossil fuels and gambling are distorting democratic processes to win political outcomes that put their profits ahead of our wellbeing.” 

Australia is falling behind other democratic countries when it comes to regulating corporate influence over our federal politicians, says a new report. 

Selling out: How powerful industries corrupt our democracy was released by the Human Rights Law Centre last week, and details how the fossil fuels, tobacco and gambling industries continue to use their wealth to manipulate Australia’s democratic processes. 

The report found that what is considered illegal and corrupt conduct overseas, seems to be classed as business as usual in Canberra. 

It highlights how the fossil fuels, tobacco and gambling industries are capitalising on the government’s weak integrity laws, and how these corporate players influence politicians – whether that’s by contributing financially to a political party or lobbying and running public attack campaigns during elections.  

In the report, Human Rights Law Centre senior lawyer Alice Drury stated that in a healthy democracy the best interests of people, communities and the planet are at the heart of every single decision our government makes.

“But right now, big industries like fossil fuels and gambling are distorting democratic processes to win political outcomes that put their profits ahead of our wellbeing,” Drury said.

“Australians support reforms to make our communities less addicted and our environment healthier, but the fossil fuels, tobacco and gambling industries are building political power to block sensible regulation.” 

Reform around political donations and integrity

The report called for more transparency of political donations and a ban on those over $6,000, public disclosure of ministerial diaries and an end to the rotating door between political life and corporate lobbying. 

Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACSH) chief executive Maurice Swanson wholeheartedly agreed. She said ACSH would like to specifically see the prohibition of political donations from the tobacco industry. 

“These donations corrupt the political process and undermine and delay the passage of legislation that would significantly reduce smoking in Australia,” Swanson said. 

Dr Kate da Costa, head of campaigns for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said that any political initiatives should always prioritise individual and community health above profit taking for a few.

“This report shows how that is simply not happening in Australia – the gambling industry can protect casinos which break the law, have ministers removed from portfolios and slow down reforms designed to keep organised crime out of community spaces,” da Costa said. 

“We know the community supports reforms to poker machines and sports gambling advertising – this report clearly spells out why those reforms are not happening.” 

Australian Conservation Foundation democracy campaigner Jolene Elberth said that the coal and gas industry wasn’t too different from tobacco and gambling, and backed the report’s call for integrity reform. 

“Each year, coal and gas companies spend millions lobbying our politicians and buying access to decision makers through political donations in order to influence government policy in the direction of their own corporate interests, rather than what is in the best interest of people and the planet,” she said. 

“It’s why the Australian government chose a ‘gas-fired recovery’ rather than investing in renewables and why we have an inadequate national climate policy.

“We need common sense integrity reforms so that our politicians listen to the communities they are elected to represent, rather than the corporations that fund their campaigns.” 

You can read the full report here


Nikki Stefanoff  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Nikki Stefanoff is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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One comment

  • Derek Mortimer says:

    The Human Rights Law Centre’s report on the corruption of democracy is interesting and welcome. One area that the report does not consider is the influence of property developers on state and local government planning decisions.

    In Victoria IBAC is conducting Operation Sandon to examine “the provision of donations and in kind assistance to candidates at State and local government elections that may give rise to actual or perceived corruption”.

    In at least one case the use of not for profit organisations has allegedly been used by developers for “astro-turfing” purposes.

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