Tuesday, April 29, 2014

More corruption in Australia

We like to think that we share a culture with Australia. But yesterday we got a reminder that we are very different countries, by way of a huge political corruption scandal in New South Wales:

Premier Mike Baird has ordered an urgent audit of hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations made to the NSW Liberal party before the last state election, declaring he is "shocked and appalled" at evidence of illegal payments aired at a corruption inquiry.

On Monday, the Independent Commission Against Corruption heard a "substantial" portion of $700,000 donated to the NSW Liberals before the March 2011 election came from illegal sources, including property developers who have been banned from donating in NSW since December 2009.

"I am shocked and appalled at the allegations raised in today’s opening statement at ICAC," Mr Baird said in a statement.

Of course he is. And no doubt we'll be hearing soon about how he knew all about it.

This sort of corruption - illegal donations, kickbacks, and huge financial favours to political cronies - is a basic part of the political culture over there. In 2011 in the very same state a Minister in the previous government was found to have given a half billion dollar contract to his brother's company. Five Queensland Cabinet Ministers had been jailed for corruption, and others have been jailed in New South Wales and Western Australia. Its so endemic that every Australian state has its own independent corruption commission to fight it.

While New Zealand has a lot of cronyism and a culture of selling honours, we don't have the outright bribery and favours-for-cash they have over the Tasman. And I am very glad of it.