The political establishment is trying to paint the ICAC revelations as just the exceptional work of a few rouge operators. Rubbish. The system is rotten to the core.
You get the sense from the ICAC hearings that there isn’t an honest politician in NSW.
And I do enjoy watching these pollies squirm, and all the ridiculous excuses that come out. My favourite is “I paid a Liberal slush fund 7 grand, not for access, but help developing a website for my pub.”
Turn it up.
And the public is left scratching their heads. Everyone knew about Obeid and the stench in Labor, but now the ICAC net is drawing in a string of Liberal politicians, often with links to the exact same characters that got Labor in trouble.
More than ever, it seems the only difference between the two major parties is the colour of their shiny ties.
And with Premier Barry O’Farrell ousted by the most infamous bottle of wine in Australian history, incoming premier Mike Baird was quick to go into damage control.
I don’t care what political badge you have … If you have done wrong and ICAC has shown you have done wrong, then I am your worst nightmare,
Note the conditional “if ICAC shows you have done wrong”… presumably that means if you don’t get caught, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Just keep doing wrong.
The actions we take will be strong, they'll be swift and the community will see that we're determined to fix and ensure that events that have been unravelling for many weeks down at ICAC do not happen again.
Check out the narrative here. There’s been a couple of rouge operators, a few bad apples, and we plan to flush them out so our squeaky clean democracy can get back to business.
What a crock.
What ICAC is showing us is that there’s a total system failure.
But even then, that depends on what side of the fence you’re on. If you’re a member of the public, trusting that your politicians are going to legislate in your best interest, the system’s bust.
But on the other hand, if you’re a corporation looking for ways to rig the political system in your favour, or a politician looking to get the edge on your opponents, the system’s working perfectly.
It’s only now, ICAC has trashed the cosy con you were selling the public, and it’s all got a bit awkward.
And here’s the ‘big lie’. A lie so big and shameless that people can’t even imagine that you’re lying. And that’s the idea that corporate donations to political parties don’t corrupt the political system.
This gumpf gets trotted out year after year. A corporation makes a donation to a political party out of the goodness of their heart, out of a desire to see the ideal of democracy flourish in this great country of ours.
Garbage. Corporations know exactly what they’re paying for. Access and favourable treatment. They expect a certain return on investment.
This is so obvious as to be blinding, but we will still pretend that the bidding war that makes up campaign donations doesn’t pervert the political process.
Of course it does. Perverting the political process in your favour is exactly the point.
And this is what ICAC is showing us. It’s just lifting the lid on the seedy latrine of money, slush funds and political access.
A lot of the flack at ICAC is around slush funds set up to secretly channel money from developers to political parties. Developers, legally, aren’t allowed to make donations.
But why is it just developers? How materially different are developers to hoteliers, or construction houses, or water companies – or anyone with a significant amount riding on political decisions?
This is the system we’ve got. If you want favourable treatment, you can buy it from your pollie. Developers still wanted to be part of the system – they just had to go underground.
And so this is what ICAC is forcing us to look at – the system itself. And to see it for the corrupt farce that it is.
But I think this is also one of the grand myths of modern society – that politicians are there to serve the public interest. I doubt if that’s ever been true. Politics has always been about protecting certain interests. Once it was the landed gentry, now it’s big business.
But it’s a myth that we, as a society, seem all too happy to perpetuate. Maybe we just can’t face the actual reality – that our political system is just another thing trying to disempower us and hold us down.
But to get ahead in life, we need to drop these illusions. See the world for what it is. Once we’ve done that, with a bit of balls and some free-thinking, we can maybe start improving out lot.
But one thing’s for sure, the system is not going to do it for us.