Tuesday, February 18, 2020

History repeats?

A Labour government desperate for the numbers crawls into bed with Winston Peters. Winston ignores the law and secretly takes money under the table from someone. When it is exposed just months out from an election, he is investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.

That's what happened back in 2008. And its happening again. Back then, Peters was immediately suspended as a Minister when the investigation was announced. But politics (and Winston) is more shameless now, and politicians care less about what the public thinks of them, so who knows if that's going to happen? But if it doesn't, then we're going to be in a situation where a Minister under investigation for taking secret donations is still exercising power, still potentially selling influence. And that will make the entire government look even more corrupt and dirty.

(The third act of this story is "Labour loses the election". Maybe they've got more of a chance this time because National also has its own dirty donations story, which has resulted in prosecution. But if it goes that way, Labour will have no-one to blame but themselves. Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas...)

Meanwhile, with two of the five parties in Parliament under investigation or in court for laundering donations, we need to fix the system which enables this corruption. Public funding, freeing parties from the need to beg for money and so effectively prostitute their policies, is an obvious solution. Get the money out of politics, so the public's voice can be heard again. But if people don't want to go that far, then at the least, we need massively lowered disclosure thresholds, real-time disclosure of every donation, and annual audits by the SFO to ensure that the rules are properly complied with and that politicians don't try any dirty tricks to get around them. Plus an audit of the past five or ten years' donations to every party, so we can tell who is clean and who is not. But of course, the politicians will never vote to put their own in jail. So the first step is to vote them out and replace them with people who will.