Updated: Apr 18, 2022
Stamping out corruption to ensure tax payer dollars are spent where there is need is core to a functioning government with the interest of citizens as their top priority. We have become almost immune to the level of "rorting" by political classes that give the appearance of advancing their own political prospects. 100 million worth of sports grants issued when ony 57% of grants were eligible for funding. Car park funds issued to marginal seats during the 2019 election, a whopping 77% of them in coalition seats. None of them recommended by the infrastructure department. More transparency is needed in the allocation of grants and the justification. We can not afford to be a population that simply rolls our eyes at grant allocations, particularly when there are so very many worthy causes that need assistance. Here in our electorate of Hughes, The Safer Communities program granted Scott Morrison's Horizon Church $110,000 , which is intended to help “protect children who are at risk of attack, harassment or violence stemming from racial or religious intolerance”. It was used to install security cameras, lights and video intercoms. By Comparison the next highest grants awarded were $22,000 for various community programs. To look in more detail at the grants issued in Hughes please use this tool by the Sydney Morning Herald who investigated the uneven level of funding across marginal and coalition electorates. But an integrity commission investigating rorts and allegations of corruption is one small part in clawing back a healthy democracy.
I can attest to the distortion of democracy and participation when money is at the root of political advancement. I am running on the "smell of an oily rag". I have put all my effort into building community, raising local and national political awareness, and raising the standard of political conversation and participation in Hughes. But all of this can dwindle in comparison when the currency of marketing and advertising, which is brought to us by the donations of vested interest, takes centre stage in politics. I am a tiny example of democracy in action or inaction may be the more appropriate wording. When my experience is amplified to sway in favour of the interests of fossil fuel lobbies, banks and developers that have the ear and pockets of the parties, that is where we need serious reform urgently to tackle our most pressing problems.
To create a vibrant democracy that exists for the betterment of citizens, is open to all, and not unduly influenced by lobbyists and corporations we need:
A strong independent, well funded integrity commission to investigate alleged corruption.
Serious donation reform, including capped annual donations of $6,000 annually and a lower donation disclosure threshold of $1000 in line with the State of NSW. The current federal cap for disclosure is $14,500.00.
A broader definition of donations and gifts. Donations should encompass membership fees, subscriptions, payments for fundraising tickets and all other contributions to candidates and political parties that pose a risk of having undue influence.
A lobbyist register. We need Ministers and their senior staff to publish their diaries to disclose who they have met with.
Mandatory enforceable cooling-off periods for politicians and their senior staff from taking paid jobs with industries related to their portfolios.
A limit to spending on electoral campaigns
A mechanism to penalise politicians or campaigners for misleading the Australian public for the purpose of influencing election results.
An enforceable code of conduct. There is currently no code of conduct for politicians. There is a Statement of Ministerial Standards, but these standards are not a legal requirement. Further, they can be changed at any time by the Prime Minister, there is no regulating body to enforce the standard.
On Tuesday the 12th of April I was invited to present at a national Integrity forum hosted by "Our Democracy" Speakers included Mark Dreyfus from the ALP, Steve Baty from the Democrats, Rebekha Sharkie from Centre Alliance, Victor Kline from The New Liberals, Helen Haines independent Member for Indi and Zali Steggall Independent Member for Warringah, Larissa Waters from The Greens. The Liberal Party were asked to attend but did not respond to the invite. A number of independent candidates from around the country were asked to attend also, including Georgia Steele the other independent candidate running for Hughes. I was given two minutes to give a high level summary of my commitments to a fair democracy. Some called it "integrity speed dating" That is a fair description! Following is my prepared speech
Hello, I’m Linda Seymour and I am running as a grass roots independent in the Federal Electorate of Hughes.
I am on Dharawal Country and I recognise all Elders past, present and future. I extend that respect to all Indigenous persons participating today.
I put a Federal Integrity Commission at the top of my priorities. I convey this daily to my community.
I am on the record that this will be non-negotiable if I am in a position to give supply and confidence to government.
I will require a robust federal anti-corruption body that will ensure public officials, including politicians, are held accountable for their actions and how they use taxpayer money.
I strongly support caps on donations and electoral campaign funding.
I have chosen to run my campaign on small donations and personal funds. I made this decision purposefully because I believe a lack of resources should not be a reason for people to be excluded from participating in our democracy.
A common theme as I speak with people in genuine need in Hughes, is their difficulty in accessing government services and support.
This contrasts with the direct access that donors and lobbyists have to our politicians. I will give full support to legislation and policies that diarise the meetings of ministers and their senior staff.
I support strengthening the lobbyist register, and I strongly support mandatory enforceable cooling-off periods for politicians and their senior staff from taking paid jobs with industries related to their portfolios.
Integrity is not a fringe issue, it is a mainstream issue and it is demanded by so many of the people that I have been speaking with in my electorate of Hughes for over two years.
I thank OUR DEMOCRACY for their work safeguarding our democracy and I fully support their framework.*
*the our democracy framework supports a disclosure threshold of $2500, I support a $1000.00 threshold in line with state donation rules.
Part of my to commitment to keeping our community informed is holding events and forums with experts. Recently we invited 'Our Democracy" to present their "Confronting State Capture - Integrity and Corporate Influence" report in an online forum. Last year via We Are Hughes we hosted an event with Craig Reucassel of Chaser Fame discussing his documentary "Big Deal" which highlights the billion dollar lobbying industry and the influence they have over our democracy. (Highly recommended viewing - you can watch this here )