Whitsunday Conservation Council

State Capture

Have you ever asked yourself, “who is really running our government?”

If you haven’t asked that question, then it is time that you did because the answer is frightening.

In a healthy democracy, we expect to elect people who will represent us and our interests in any given election. But this is not happening because our democracy is under siege from State Capture.

What is State Capture?

 According to the World Bank, State Capture or Corporate Capture, occurs when powerful or wealthy interests interfere with decision-making, or have access to decision-makers beyond that of ordinary citizens, and assume a degree of control over the rule-making process itself.

Sound familiar? It should because today, in Australia, we have numerous private interests that have become systemically advantaged and the scandals that hit the news are only the tip of the iceberg.

Lobbying affects us directly in the Whitsundays.  The latest example is federal LNP candidate and current mayor Andrew Willcox’s absurd promise of building a coal fired power station at Collinsville. This decision comes from the fossil fuel lobby, not from economics, best practice or good governance.

The burning of coal and petroleum products causes millions of deaths every year worldwide, as well as CO2 emissions that are cooking our Great Barrier Reef.  These issues seem to be ignored by our federal, state and local governments, so that fossil fuel industries can continue to receive massive subsidies and make profits worth killing for.  In effect, the taxpayer is funding death and destruction on a gargantuan scale.

A new report Confronting State Capture from the Australian Democracy Network (ADN), outlines the six tentacles of state capture that are squeezing the life out of our democracy – financial, lobbying, revolving doors, institutional repurposing, research and policymaking, and public influence campaigns.

  1. Financial: The story of state capture starts with money, both political donations and the dark money funnelled to political parties uncounted. We are talking millions of dollars.
  2. Lobbying: Direct and formal contact between industry and policymakers is only partially regulated, with specialist lobbying firms, PR consultants, business forums, and peak bodies undertaking informal lobbying through social networks, on the golf course, at exclusive clubs, site visits and industry functions. There are far more lobbyists in Parliament House than there are politicians.
  3. Revolving doors: When former Australian public and elected officials move into the private sector they take extensive contact network, deep institutional knowledge, and rare and privileged personal access to people at the highest levels of government and industry, exercising influence over policy making and government procurement decisions
  4. Institutional repurposing: Hollowing out and repurposing institutions established to serve the public good is a gradual process of incremental reforms, revolving door appointments and slow cultural drift in which the agency is gradually unmoored from its stated purpose.
  5. Research and policymaking: Unlike community and other interest groups, major industries have virtually unlimited resources to engage in research and policy processes, generating submissions and legislative amendments and providing evidence to inquiries, which industry funded think tanks reinforce
  6. Public influence campaigns: Companies and industry bodies have the resources to use traditional media and social media as well as disinformation and dark PR, and to purchase social license through investment in highly visible social and community infrastructure, cultural and sporting events.

So, what can be done? 

With our democracy at stake, doing nothing is not an option. There are a number of steps that we need to take.

  1. Recognise and call out state capture as a systemic threat to Australian democracy.
  2. All parties and candidates must commit to legislating reforms under the Framework for a Fair Democracy.
  3. Create political, economic and social consequences for the corporate powers and the political decision makers who participate in the tactics of state capture.
  4. Protect vibrant, diverse civic participation at the heart of our healthy democracy.

For detailed information on State Capture, please check out the following links.

Confronting State Capture – summary

Confronting State Capture – full report

Read about the national Survey

Sign the #OurDemocracy petition