TV

‘The Weekly’ Dug Into Australia’s Atrocious Political Donations Laws And Found That Democracy’s Fucked

We have NO idea who's giving political parties money.

The Weekly is back for another year on the ABC, and just two episodes in is already proving its worth as a source of serious political coverage as well as comedy chops. Taking a leaf out of some of the best Last Week Tonight features, the Weekly team took it upon themselves to investigate the latest batch of donations made to Australian political parties, and found some genuinely shocking things.

Australia’s political donations system is renowned for being laughably weak. For one, donations to political parties don’t have to be reported in real time, or in anything like a timely manner. Under current laws, a massive wad of data comes out every February detailing the donations parties received in the previous financial year, which is a problem in itself. If you gave money to the Labor Party or the Liberals in August 2014, that information wouldn’t be public knowledge until this week.

Worse, that huge flood of information every year means that few news outlets have the time or resources to really go through all of it. Neither, as it turns out, does the Australian Electoral Commission; The Weekly found that of $173 million given to political parties in the last financial year, 40 percent of it came from sources unknown. That’s a cool $69 million circulating in our political system, given by property developers, lobbyists, mining and energy companies, big business and who knows who else. We never will.

The Weekly also found that the AEC — the body tasked with catching people who break political donations law — has literally never caught someone breaking political donations law in the 98 years they’ve had the power to do so. The upshot is that for nearly a century, paid-up interests have been able to give vast sums of money to the people who make decisions, with no obligation to disclose what they’re doing and no fear of getting caught if they do the wrong thing.

To put it delicately, our democracy is fucked.