Liberal Party grandee Michael Kroger has joined former party Treasurer Michael Yabsley in calling for a complete ban on political donations from business and developers.
Kroger made the call following today's lead story in Melbourne's The Age, which highlights concerns about a proposed rezoning of land on the outskirts of Melbourne that could benefit Liberal Party donors to the tune of $500 million.
"I absolutely agree with Michael Yabsley," Kroger told The Power Index, "In the modern era, elections should be 100 per cent publicly funded so we can avoid the perception that people can pay money for favours."
The Age's front page story, headlined "Lib donors poised to hit paydirt", reports that "a farmer, developer and former Liberal MP are poised to share in a $500 million bonanza from a controversial land rezoning" on the outer fringe of Melbourne. The rezoning looks set to be approved by Ted Baillieu's Liberal government in Victoria.
The block of land in question, which is currently used as a chicken farm, comprises 100 hectares on Melbourne's south-eastern fringe, 45km from the CBD. Its rezoning is being promoted by lobbyist Geoff Leigh, a former state Liberal MP and founder of a group called Business First, which was recently revealed to have failed to declare thousands of dollars of donations to the Liberal party.
The landowner, Peter Carpenter is a family friend of local Liberal MP, Donna Bauer and has recently donated thousands of dollars to local Liberal candidates, including Ms Bauer, the former local mayor, a current local councillor and another local Liberal MP.
Carpenter also admits to meeting Matthew Guy, now Victoria's planning minister, at two Liberal party fundraisers just before the state election last year. It will be Guy's job to sign off on the rezoning if it is accepted by an expert committee.
The Baillieu government's new Growth Areas Authority recommended this week that the rezoning go ahead, despite repeatedly refusals from the Bracks and Brumby governments to rezone the land (including one as recently as last year). The local council has long been in favour of the rezoning.
As Michael Yabsley told The Power Index earlier this week, it may well be in cases like this that the entire process is squeaky clean, but there is the nevertheless a public perception that "it doesn't pass the smell test". The only way to banish that perception, says Yabsley, is to ban all political donations except those made by individuals and to limit them to an amount that could not possibly be seen to influence the political process. Yabsley suggests a cap of $500 or $1000.