A new scandal has embroiled the New South Wales Labor Party, and resulted in the suspension of its general secretary, Kalia Murnain. Corruption and racket have plagued the NSW branch for years but this incident has thrown the party into deep crisis.
This particular scandal stems from the party taking illegal political donations from wealthy business owners. It is currently being investigated by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
The ICAC counsel has heard varying evidence so far, but the facts of the matter are clear. In 2015, a $100,000 donation was given to the NSW branch of the Labor Party by the billionaire Chinese property developer Huang Xiangmo.
Donations from property developers to political parties are illegal in NSW.
This donation was then covered up by the party and the money was recorded as being made by several different people in denominations of $10,000 each. A Chinese Friends of Labor fundraising dinner was used as part of the cover.
In reality this money reached the Labor Party headquarters via an Aldi shopping bag filled with cash, hand delivered by Huang himself.
Murnain has admitted to the ICAC that she gave “misleading” information to an electoral authority investigation about the donation in 2016. Her excuse was that she was following advice from senior party officials including Labor MP Ernst Wong and former Labor senator Sam Dastyari.
Incidentally it was Dastyari who resigned in disgrace in 2017 after being embroiled in his own dodgy donation scandal, also involving Huang Xiangmo.
While the investigation continues, it is clear that Murnain will not be resuming her role as general secretary. She will likely take the fall for the party with most other players either being exonerated or not even exposed.
Coming in the aftermath of defeats at the last state and federal elections, Labor leader Jodi McKay has struggled to hold the party together, admitting that an election will never be won unless they can win over public trust again.
But the issue of dodgy donations is not limited to the NSW branch, or to the Labor Party. There have been a series of other incidents including in Victoria.
The Liberals themselves have had to answer questions about improper donations. They were in fact also guilty of accepting donations from Huang, albeit of a lesser amount, and through someone that worked under him.
In the last few weeks the Liberals are again in the spotlight over the source of donations that Gladys Lui raised for the party.
Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese says that he knew nothing about the illegal donations made to the NSW branch. This is despite the fact that he represents the Sydney electorate of Grayndler where the branch office is located.
Labor have called for a National Integrity Commission, a “culture change” and a change to the limits put on political donations. The issue however is not the rules, but that both the major parties are reliant on big business donations. They have both always been prepared to bend the rules to gain advantage.
While a new investigation may expose further corruption, it is unlikely to have a significant impact on how the major parties operate, or the deals they do with corporations to get into power.
The capitalist system creates the conditions whereby wealth equals power. Capitalist parties like the Liberals and Labor exist to represent the interests of their big business backers. These parties see money as the lubricant to facilitate deals on property development, financial concessions, tax cuts and other pro-business policies.
The capitalist system itself is broken. It needs overhauling rather than tweaking. The starting point needs to be the creation of a political alternative to the major parties, a new party that refuses to take corporate cash. Big business has two parties to choose from, working people need a party of their own.
On the basis of a new politics that really represents working people, we could begin to remove corporate domination from our lives and fight for a socialist system that is based on putting people’s needs first.
In the meantime, all politicians, party officials and wealthy donors that have been exposed as corrupt should face the maximum possible penalty.
By Denise Dudley