WHILE we might softly applaud this week’s call by Richard Vines, a former director of the Victorian Labor Party’s fundraising arm, Progressive Business, for greater transparency in campaign donations, his proffered reforms are wholly inadequate. In fact, the United States – hardly a bastion of electoral innovation – has something to teach us about transparency in political finances.
Progressive Business was set up soon after the Bracks Labor government took office in late 1999. It was “the leading organisation linking business with government,” according to its website, and made no secret of the fact that its “extensive events program” provided “the ideal platform for business to meet and discuss those issues relevant to both groups.”
In practice, Progressive Business hosted functions attended by the premier and/or ministers and private citizens who had the resources to pay thousands of dollars for the privilege. Embarrassment followed when an indiscreet businessman, who had paid a premium admission of $10,000 to a function, told the media in November 2009 that he had spent the evening bending the ear of the premier about a coal industry deal he had an interest in…