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Free and Fair Elections? With the major parties luring wealthy donors, money votes!

Dr Joo-Cheong Tham, a legal scholar and campaign finance expert at the University of Melbourne, has just had his new book published by UNSW Press called:

'Money and Politics: The democracy we can't afford'

The book highlights in Australian politics, the massive private donations made to the major politcial parties - Labor, Liberals, Nationals and The Greens. It highlights that some $60 million has been spent on election advertising toward the 2010 federal election, of that $40 million by Labor and Liberal parties - no wonder they get re-elected.

How can minor political parties, new political parties with no election history and so no AEC funding, or independent candidates stand a hope of getting elected, when such wealth bias exists in the Australian electoral system?

Australia simply does not have free and fair elections. The AEC only facilitates a duel contest between Liberal and Labor, which have similar ideologies and policies anyway. No wonder there are so many informal votes and so many who have become disenfranchised with Australia's electoral system.

Dr Tham questions the secrecy of the funding of the parties' campaigns, and why Australians have to wait until February 2012 to have this information disclosed to the voting public - "a full year and a half to find out who paid the piper at the 2010 elections.".

Dr Joo-Cheong Tham

Dr Tham in his book, examines the weaknesses of Australia's rules on political donations, and to call for an overhaul of our campaign finance rules. He offers serious proposals for electoral reform across Australia. For the many of us dissatisfied with the current state of affairs, his suggestions are vital reading.

An outline of his book has been provided in an ABC Radio interview today on the programme National Interest by presenter Peter Meyers with Dr Tham. The programme is called The democracy we can't afford. It ought to be available for replaying by podcast on the ABC from tomorrow.

In the meantime, the following related websites should be of interest:

UNSW Press

Dr Joo-Cheong Tham's profile at University of Melbourne

2004 Election Funding Payments (AEC) (2007 seesm to be still not available and this is 2010!

'Election funding transparency: Australia has a lot to learn' on Inside Story website

'Election funding 'broken', by journalist Brian Robins, Sydney Morning Herald, 1st February 2010

Democracy For Sale - search for donation information

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My article "Don't give Abbott mandate to inflict misery" of 20 August gives examples of how Australia's electoral system falls a long way short of what would be real democracy. Any system that allows elected representatives to harm both our short term and longer term interests in the way that most Federal, state and local governments of both major political parties have in the last three decades against the known wishes of the public or, at best, without their informed consent is not democratic by my understanding.

What is needed is a Swiss style system which allows any proposal gaining the support of a designated number of signatories (100,000 of the 7,000,000 population of Switzerland) to be put to the people in a binding national referendum. Referendum questions can also be put to regions of the country. Such a provision in Australia's constitution would probably have prevented most Australian government decisions which were harmful to our interests.