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Issue #1601      July 10, 2013

Editorial

ALP whitewash

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has not wasted any time attempting to pre-empt the findings of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) report expected later this month. “I want a Labor Party which is free from the taint of some of the things we have seen emerge in ICAC in NSW,” Rudd said when announcing moves for federal intervention into the NSW ALP. The Independent Commission has been investigating the affairs of the NSW Labor Party and former ministers Eddie Obeid, Ian Macdonald and others. The hearings lifted the lid on the inner workings of the Labor machine and rampant corruption and abuse of power that saw individuals pocket millions of dollars overnight. “As a party we must stamp out a culture which has allowed this type of behaviour to take hold … ,” Rudd said.

Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, said more about the culture and structures: “The structures have allowed a situation to develop whereby a small group have been able to … impose their will on the party. Those structures must be reformed. The days of … factional dominance in NSW must also be reformed because they have clearly led to an abuse of power. These reforms advanced by the Prime Minister today will do just that.”

But will they? The PM is proposing a number of relatively minor reforms. There will be a charter of rights and responsibilities for ALP members and a Labor Ombudsman to hear complaints from rank and file members. On the question of corruption, a “zero tolerance” policy will enable the NSW branch to expel anyone found guilty or accused of corruption. The Party’s disputes and credentials committee will be disbanded and replaced by a new internal appeals tribunal, chaired by a retired judicial officer or senior legal professional. The present chair is former minister and Labor power broker, Joe Tripodi, a close mate of Obeid and Macdonald.

Property developers will be banned from standing as Labor candidates, as if they need to be in Parliament for an abuse of power to occur. At least 50 percent of the NSW branch’s administrative committee will be rank and file members, with an additional three independent directors with board experience. How will they be appointed? Will the factions decide them?

None of these proposals challenge the present power structures. They do not, for example, even seek to ban factions. Not that this would be enough to change the culture. Developers will still be able to buy off parties and government ministers. Not that corruption is limited to developers. It is rife in the mining sector, the military industrial complex, gambling, construction, energy, fuel and anywhere big profits can be made with a helping hand from those in government handing out the approvals or setting the conditions.

The problems are systemic. Anyone seeking a better understanding of the power brokers, the faceless men and links with big business and organised crime should read The Fixer: The untold story of Graham Richardson, by Marian Wilkinson (William Heinemann Australia, 1999).

Corruption is endemic to capitalism and, as long as capitalism remains, the incentive will be there for individuals and corporations to “bend the rules” and abuse positions of power. The ICAC inquiry shows what abuse of authority and power can deliver – millions of dollars overnight. Favours are delivered through licences, privatisation, contracts and all sorts of other deals behind closed doors. They are paid for through political donations, deposits in offshore accounts, post-parliamentary directorships, and a host of other ways.

Rudd’s move to free his party of the “taint” has two main aims. First, Rudd wants to be Prime Minister after the elections. The second is to restore the façade of the two-party system offering voters a “choice”, an “alternative” when one or the other party is on the nose. Prior to Rudd’s reinstallation as Prime Minister, Labor was facing a wipe-out that would possibly take decades, if ever to recover from. Without a tight election battle, without a substantial opposition in Parliament, the two-party system’s future is uncertain. People might look elsewhere, for a real alternative. The last thing Rudd, a capitalist ideologue, wants is for the working class to start questioning the capitalist system.

Next article – Customs needs more funding to fight corruption

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