Nobody is going to walk away from the Wollongong corruption scandal unscathed. Regardless of what findings I.C.A.C. might deliver, the fallout is already spreading throughout politics. From the initial allegations of bribes and sexual liaisons relating to the former town planning officer Beth Morgan, to the question of political donations to the Labor Party, and now the revelation that at least one of the developers also made contributions to the Liberal Party.
While the New South Wales government is contemplating the sacking of the Wollongong Council, the councilors are asking how that is appropriate when the problem wasn’t with the councilors. The development industry is proposing that planning authority be removed from councils altogether, and handed over to panels reporting directly to the state. But of course it is the state parliamentarians, and federal for that matter, whose election campaigns are funded from donations.
This has prompted the Prime Minister to call for a reform to the whole political donation process, as well as identifying taxpayer funded government advertising as another area requiring reform. In fact the two have now become linked with suggestions that such funding could be redirected towards the cost of campaigning on an allocation basis.
The backwash of this scandal, combined with other unpopular issues, has left Premier Morris Iemma’s approval rating at an all time low. In truth however, all political parties at all levels of government have milked this particular cow at one time or another, and real reform is overdue.