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June 18th, 2011:

Yes PM on smoking bans

The way things used to be 25 years ago: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Well, if tobacco companies have donated to Labor, they certainly aren’t getting much benefit from it

18 June 2011

Despite The Australian‘s recent demands for news organisations to “cover all significant information, views and perspectives”, its tobacco “scandal” coverage today seems to be omitting some rather vital and obvious points:

What have they failed to mention in their story? For starters – the reminder that the Liberals continue to accept huge sums of money from the tobacco industry. And the fact that these “revelations” about Labor are from the tobacco industry, trying to stop Labor reducing its ability to profit from flogging death sticks to young Australians.

And, most importantly, the point that even if parts of Labor have inadvertently asked for or even in past taken tobacco industry money, the ALP is not doing their bidding. Quite the opposite, which is why they’re so enraged.

Isn’t that the point? Donations may well corrupt, and huge sums of money from tobacco companies to political parties in order for those parties to advocate for the tobacco companies’ interests in parliament – like, obviously, the Liberal Party is doing – is of course a matter of grave concern. The acceptance of significant donations gives at the very least theappearance of corruption, a rebuttable presumption that the party is doing the bidding of those giving the donations.

But a political party taking their money and then legislating against them anyway? A party who cannot be said to have been corrupted by the money because it’s doing precisely the opposite of what the donor wants?

You know what, that doesn’t bother me all that much at all. It might bother the donors – I’m not surprised the tobacco industry gives 97% of its donations to the Liberal Party and not the Labor Party – who aren’t getting anything close to value for money. But since the donors getting value for money would be pretty much the definition of corruption and the antithesis of democracy, I find I can bear their loss with considerable equanimity.

UPDATE: You know what this reminds me of? Sir Humphrey’s attempt twenty five years ago to blackmail Prime Minister Jim Hacker on behalf of British Tobacco (from about a minute in, or – if you want to avoid Sir Humphrey’s verbose version, 1.48):

“It’s not embarrassing. I’ve had drinks at the Russian Embassy. That doesn’t make me a Russian spy!”