Will this appear on TV3?

Liam Hehir writes in the Manawatu Standard:

Are you ready to hear something that will shake your faith in our democracy? Brace yourself.

I can reveal that a network of highly organised corporations have gained influence over one of our political parties. They give this party thousands of dollars – and there is no doubt they get their money’s worth.

For instance, the corporations in question have privileged party connections. As hard as it is to believe, they actually have a direct hand in choosing the party leader. Less directly, a high number of party MPs and organisers used to work for them.

The party regularly proposes legislation that furthers the goals of these corporations.

One of their umbrella organisations was even awarded a government contract that one watchdog group called a “cosy deal” to do “little, if anything”.

Yes, the role and influence of unions over the Labour Party is truly disturbing.

Of course, you probably shouldn’t expect the TV3 news team to express any alarm over this. I also wouldn’t hold my breath while waiting for John Campbell to demand which Labour Party figures met with which union bosses (and what was discussed and what promises were made).

Union bosses that pay enough money to Labour ever get private meetings on a regular basis with MPs to discuss and write policy.

Reasonable disclosure standards should be maintained and adhered to. As long as they are – and there’s no evidence of actual favours being traded for donations – it’s hard to see what there is to get het up about.

After all, it’s reasonable that people who are donating to a cause have an opportunity to talk to the people they are donating to. It’s also reasonable for politicians to talk with the people they hope will back their cause.

So it doesn’t really disturb me to know that organised labour is a powerful force within the Labour Party. I know that the party is supported by, and will support legislation favourable to, the trade union movement. I price that into my decision about voting for it. People make the same calculation about National and the farming and business sectors.

The alternative is for private donations to political parties to be banned altogether and for all political activity to be exclusively financed by the state. This is the preference of the Green Party – and it is hard to escape the feeling that the “revelations” about private donor fundraising are being used as a stalking horse for that cause.

Public financing of political parties should be resisted. When parties don’t depend on voluntary donations – from individuals, business, trade unions and other non-government sectors – they will become a self-perpetuating elite of career politicians. Incumbents will benefit from a system rigged even more in their favour, and grassroots politics will wither.

Our members of Parliament will become less like our delegates to the Government, and more like the Government’s emissaries to us.

And however you feel about the present system, it’s preferable to that.

This is the agenda that must be resisted. Taxpayers being forced to fund political parties. It entrenches the incumbents and means that we end up not donating to the parties we agree with or support – but being forced to fund the parties we detest.

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