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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

SA: squeaky clean? « Previous | |Next »
August 7, 2009

SA, along with Victoria, has refused to regulate political donations and lobbyists, and establish an independent anti-corruption body. The resistance by the Rann Government to the political pressure is one of teh government digging its heels in. It maintains that there is no political transparency issue in SA. There is no corruption in public administration, and there is nothing wrong with how the ALP gets its millions of dollars to fight its election campaigns.

Rann's response to any questioning has always been the same: we are different in South Australia, there is no problem, and so need to establish an independent commission against corruption. The inference is that access to government is not being bought, Labor mates are not being appointed to high-paying positions and retired politicians are not exploiting their political connections for "success fees".

The political class in SA have erected a wall around their activities and networks, and they are defending it by deflecting all calls for accountability by citizens calling for greater democracy. It shrouds some of its activities in secrecy by ‘‘sham claims’’ that voluminous documents were ‘‘cabinet-in-confidence’’ and therefore exempt from public release.

In a speech to mark 20 years since his landmark report on corruption in Queensland, Fitzgerald had a message for political leaders generally, not just in the Sunshine State.

Despite their protestations of high standards of probity, which personally might well be correct, and irrespective of what they intend, political leaders who gloss over corruption risk being perceived by their colleagues and the electorate as regarding it of little importance. ‘Even if incorrect, that is a disastrous perception.‘Greed, power and opportunity in combination provide an almost irresistible temptation for many which can only be countered by the near-certainty of exposure and severe punishment.

Fitzgerald cautioned that politics was about more than gaining and retaining power. In SA the reponse to Fitzgerald was a shrug of the shoulders.

The appearance in SA is one of corporatism--- a nexus of unions, big business and companies running the show with the media appearing to become captive to power and money. The consensus of this ruling bloc (neo-corporatism?) is dedicated to enforcing political and social stability at the expense of democracy.

The danger here is that the political system becomes overloaded with corporate interest located inside rather than outside the bureaucracy that an embedded and entrenched system of entitlements and special privileges for the powerful groups involved becomes the norm. Though there is an absence of a political tradition that has corporatism as a framework for analysis, the popular name for this tendency is crony capitalism.

The neo-liberal attempts to dismantle it have been successfully deflected and the interest group liberalism and pluralism remains the main representation of the political system. This fails models to grasp how big industry has moved inside the bureaucracy and operates within the system. The Greenhouse Mafia is a classic example.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:45 AM | | Comments (5)


That's what happens when you get an overpowerful government and an opposition in disarray. It is the Playford decades all over again.

Now you might say that the Playford years were good, but I disagree. Playford had a massively negative effect on the state by bringing in more industry then was sustainable. If he'd left well enough alone, Adelaide would be half the size and we'd have half the problems- an economy that made sense, less urban sprawl, and less enviromental mess.

He made his mistakes because there was no one in the corporate system of his day to challenge him. I think in forty years or so the Rann decades are going to be seen in a similar light.

(And yes I am sure there's plenty of simple theiving going on behind the scenes as well.)

Following from Brent said, I'd say that from early sixties to early eighties a benign power formation had worked out a way forward.
But during the Bannon years, politics fell under the thrall of neoliberalism (sorry to harp) and we've only gone backwards.
Perhaps SA is an example of globalising and corporatising forces that dissolve local and community imperatives in favour of outside interests and their local opportunist allies.
Interesting to note that Adelaide's sole mass circulation newspaper, the usually dumbed-down Advertiser, was inquiring into the problem of Adelaide's proximate valuable agricultural land being turned over to "developer mates".
On top of their recent inquiries into water polices, this has become too much- I demand Brit'lee Spears in a micro mini be returned to page three!!

Fitzgerald says:

Access can now be purchased, patronage is dispensed, mates and supporters are appointed and retired politicians exploit their political connections to obtain success fees for deals between business and government.

That is very accurate description of what happens in SA. He goes on to say:
Neither side of politics is interested in these issues except for short term political advantage as each enjoys or plots impatiently for its turn at the privileges and opportunities which accompany power. Unfortunately, cynical, short-sighted political attitudes adopted for the benefit of particular politicians and their parties commonly have adverse consequences for the general community.

How true. SA, like Victoria, is not as open, transparent and corruption-resistant as it should be.

Funny how SA resembles Tasmania.
The Advertiser feeds off government press releases and boosters it on projects agreeable to Labor, developers and MSM.
Following the soft-soaping of the "hoon drivers", we now get the carve up of the green belt of the parklands, with local government already suppressed, featuring big name developers and the press pushing it for all its worth, with nasty stuff directed at any one who questions the detail, as "anti development".
Curiously, the Advertiser has it both ways, by itself questioning the planned development of the Gawler belt, a renown food basket, for mass housing devoid of support infrastructure ( is this still the 1950's? ); a curious anomaly.

I think that you are right about the comparison between SA and Tasmania---corporatism, Labor style.