Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Success with anti political donations campaign

The Save Our Suburbs anti political donations campain has travelled along a long road but we are getting there.

The newspapers have been full of the NSW Taskforce calling for a blanket ban on political donations "to tackle public concerns that money is corrupting the planning process". The misleading name of this organisation tends to hide the fact that it represents some of the biggest developers including Meriton, Multiplex, Macquarie bank and Hardie Holdings. So the situation now is that developers are asking for a ban on their political donations!
Six years ago the public were not generally aware of the issue of political donations by developers. However I spotted an article on the subject in the Weekend Australian, 5-6 February 2000. Having noted the undue influence developers exerted on the NSW Government, Save Our Suburbs began making donations a major issue, demanding a ban on developer donations. Our big chance came when I appeared in Quentin Dempster’s Stateline program of 30 March 2001. I criticised the policy of Urban Consolidation with the then planning minister Dr Refshauge defending it. After Dr Refshauge had said his piece Quentin Dempster said "But Tony Recsei smells a rat" and featured me bringing up the developer donation issue.

That program caused the facts to hit the fan, so to speak, and the next week Paul Keating and others took up the topic.

Save Our Suburbs subsequently organised a demonstration outside a fund raising dinner being held by Dr Refshauge for developers. In the "Naked City" column of the Sun-Herald by Alex Mitchell and Candace Sutton the following report appeared:

Fishy business

PROPERTY developers were thick on the ground at Aria Restaurant, No 1 Macquarie Street at Circular Quay, when Deputy Premier and Planning Minister Andrew Refshauge hosted a $1,200-a-plate fundraiser for the Labor Party last week. Tony Recsei, president of Save Our Suburbs, who is standing for the upper house at the State election in March on a ticket opposing overdevelopment staged a picket on the night and was on hand to offer guests a taste treat.

"We offered guests tins of sardines because the Carr Government is packing people into Sydney like sardines, " said Recsei. "No one accepted our gifts."

Subsequently the Greens took up the donations theme and organised similar demonstrations in which Save Our Suburbs participated. The Greens also conducted further research on the subject, the results of which can be seen on their website.

So now, six long years later, the topic has become so hot that the State’s biggest developers themselves want an end to the practice. It has been worth the effort.

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