Modia Minotaur

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Developer Donations: On The Way Out

My goodness - this could be the start of something big: a ban on political donations by developers.

The idea of banning or at least restricting donations from developers was floating around earlier this year, but was seen as such an ambitious idea (and, by its opponents, as such a crackpot leftie scheme) that a formal motion was never even attempted at State Conference. Now, it seems, this is an idea whose time has come.

Banning donations from developers would be something I would love to see. Firstly, I hate developers. I hate them. I hate the way they reframe our built heritage as `exhausted housing stock'. And especially, I hate the way they influence policy. I recently had the misfortune to study the methods they used to knock down Michael Egan's attempts to improve housing affordability, and the rank opportunism just made me ill.

Secondly, I hate the notion, constantly reiterated by the Greens (sometimes to the point of borderline insanity) that the ALP is `the developer's friend'. It was under the ALP that such treasures as The Rocks were saved, by icons of heritage activism as Tom Uren, during as art critic Robert Hughes once put it, `a time when no old building was in principle safe from destruction by the business interests that kept him [Liberal Premier Bob Askin] in office - and if you tore down enough of them, and put a respectable handful of the results into Liberal Party funds, you got a knighthood as well'. The fact that the idea has gained some traction is a great shame for trailblazers such as Uren, and NSW MLC Meredith Burgmann, who fought alongside Juanita Nielsen to save historic areas of Kings Cross (as Nielsen found out, fighting developers can be a dangerous game).

Banning developer donations would be an especially smart move in seats where the ALP and the Greens run first/second, many of which are regarded as critical to win the next State election. Though it has been argued that outlawing developer donations would be setting a precedence of discrimination, there are few lobbies wealthier and more insistent than this one. As this article here suggests, the state of our built environment has a greater effect on our wellbeing than we may suspect. Why shouldn't a government grab back the agenda via consumer activism in the same way individuals have held large companies like Nike and McDonalds to account by consumer boycotts and activism? Bring it on, I say.


At 7:35 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would support banning political donations by developers but I don't think it's that simple.

A major issue in my mind would be developers giving money to other organisations which are fronts for political parties. It's particularly important due to the changes to funding disclosures for political parties leading to much less transparency.

At 12:00 pm, Blogger Minotaur said...

That's a fair point. I think transparency in all donations is sorely welcome, which makes the changes to electoral laws passed by the Federal Government not so long ago - made against the recommendations of the AEC - all the more vexing.

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