The Federal Government has banned blind trusts, which are a way for members of the public to donate anonymously to ministers, in its new code of conduct after the whole Christian Porter disaster.
Remember Christian Porter? Never thought I’d be writing news related to him again but he was the former Attorney-General and Liberal MP who in 2021 was accused of historical rape. He sued the ABC for defamation over publishing the allegations and got his legal fees partly paid for by a blind trust.
Porter disclosed the donations in his declaration of interests but didn’t disclose where they came from because he said he literally didn’t know. Not cool.
Labor tried to get the Liberal government to investigate and force him to disclose the donors’ identities. Obviously the government shut that down and voted against it in parliament. NOT FKN COOL.
Labor vowed to change the code of conduct if it won the federal election and the time has finally come. Two changes relating to blind trusts were made to the new conduct released on Friday.
“Ministers will not have any direct shareholdings. Ministers are required to divest themselves of shareholdings, except in superannuation and other broadly diversified managed funds. There will be no ‘blind trust’ arrangements,” the code reads.
“Ministers will be personally responsible for their private interests. Ministers won’t be allowed to delegate that responsibility to anyone else, such as in a ‘blind trust’ arrangement.”
If a minister breaches the code they’ll likely lose their job.
The new code is a delivered election promise from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese that his government would be “open and accountable”.
“I expect ministers to uphold the highest of standards in both their professional and personal lives,” he said in a statement.
Transparency is crucial in a functioning democracy so everyone can know where MPs’ interests lie and can make informed decisions on who to vote for. Allowing anonymous donations undercuts this.
But Australia’s political donations system is notoriously underregulated.
Only donations of more than $15,200 need to be fully declared by recipients as of July 1 2022, which means donors can theoretically drip-feed payments of $15,199 to pollies and stay off the public donations register. Basically our political parties *no doubt* receive way more cash under the table than we know about.
And that disclosure threshold goes up by about a grand every financial year. It’s absolutely fucked and make no mistake: Labor benefits greatly from it.
This new code of conduct is a step in the right direction but if the government were to actually be accountable, it’s got a long way to go.