By Joe Montero
The Labor Party in Victoria has been hit by the Adem Somyurek branch stacking scandal. The party numbers man, member of parliament, and until now a minister in the Daniel Andrews government, is alleged to have created at least some of these numbers from fake branch memberships.
This sort of behaviour is corrupt. There’s no other way to call it. But over emphasis on the personality covers the sad reality. This sort of behaviour is part and parcel of the Australian political scene.
Over the last few years, we have seen an escalation of exposed corrupt behaviour within the Liberal, National and One Nation parties. The personalities and specific cases are not so important here. What is important, is that this is extremely widespread.
Internal factionalism within the parties, maneuverings for advantage over others, making alliances and breaking them, is part of the mix for all the parties. The objective is not to avoid corruption. It is to not get cought with your pants down.
That Labor should be tarnished as well, is not so surprising. After all, it operates in the same political arena.
It has to be said, Premier Daniel Andrews has at least stood apart from the general mill of political leaders in this case, and acted decisively and quickly, instead of carrying on the usual cover up and avoidance response.
Even so, when corrupt behaviour exists across the board, it tells us that the political system is sick. This is what needs attention, and dealing with just the symptoms will not cure the illness.
Real life shows that the sweet fiction about the high standards of Australian democracy, gives way to intrigue, manipulation, personal gain and dishonesty. To capture a seat in parliament, and much more to become the party in government, involves playing the game. Wheels must be oiled, alliances made and broken, and a lot of money found.
This is a recipe for corruption, creating a form of politics, where the political elite is mostly separated from the population and dependent on patronage to get ahead, exists in a social bubble, lives an existence and sharing attitudes that are far removed from the rest of us.
When this bubble includes the corporate world and wealthiest citizens, there are always going to be plenty of men and women willing to exchange dollars and opportunities for favours. There will be just as many willing to oblige.
Corruption is not only about ill-gotten money. It is about betrayal of principle to get good press and sponsors, dishonesty, lack of transparency, putting oneself above the interests of those one claims to represent, and of course, political stacking,
If we want none of this, we must be come up with a political system that does not concentrate power in the bubble. One which transfers power from the bubble to those who do the everyday work and live normal lives. It’s a big ask. But until we do get there, the corruption will continue.
Worse. In today’s circumstances, where the political system is increasingly failing to deliver economically and politically, the greater the gap between the bubble and everyone else will grow, the more rampant will the level of corruption become, and the rest of us forced to pay a heavy price.
This is why Adem Somyurek is much less important than the bigger picture.