Donations have had their day Cart may brew some good ideas

By Ben Douglas and Ashlee Betteridge

Verity Firth may have received more than $71,000 worth of donations during her election campaign last year, but the Member for Balmain has put her full support behind a plan to scrap all political donations. “Whether we like it or not, I think the problem with political donations is that there is a perception that donations are not being made with altruistic motives,” Ms Firth said. “Premier Iemma is of the attitude, and I firmly believe, that we should just cut to the quick and get rid of all private funding,” she said. In the wake of the Wollongong Council corruption scandal, Premier Morris Iemma has suggested that all private political donations be banned, and campaigns be funded publicly. Ms Firth said that while a model for how public funding of political campaigns would work is yet to be produced, she believed the public would support a donations ban. But the Member was unable to say how much publicly funded campaigns would cost the taxpayers, nor where in the budget the funds would be taken from. “That is a good question, and those sort of details will have to be discussed. But I think it is a matter of priorities. This will cost money, a lot of money, but is it worth doing anyway? I think it is,” Ms Firth said. “If we do this, we in New South Wales will be leading the world in political transparency,” she said. Ms Firth said that a federal ban on

Balmain MP Verity Firth supports a ban on political donations.

donations, as well as those at state and local government level, would be the best way of instilling public confidence in political funding. The costs of campaigning had risen dramatically in recent years, Ms Firth said, which she attributed to the cost of new technologies and methods politicians used to get their message to the voters. “We have to keep up with new technologies, and that is especially important with younger voters. Campaigning is more complicated, and more expensive,” she said. Rising costs meant that donations were an increasingly important part of the campaign process, she said. “While we are nowhere close to the situation you see in the US, where you have to be wealthy to run, but part of an MP’s job does unfortunately become fundraising for campaigns. Personally, I’d much rather be out talking to constituents,” she said. Greens Cr Rochelle Porteous, who ran against Ms Firth in last year’s election campaign, said she supports a full ban on donations. “We need to lock it out at all three tiers of Government though,” Cr Porteous said.

Leichhardt Mayor Carolyn Allen and Cr Maire Sheehan launched a new networking tool for the community for Neighbour Day on March 30. The Good Ideas! Coffee Cart is for local groups, streets and community groups to use at events and meetings. Groups will be able to book the coffee cart for free through council to use in their local park or street. The aim of the cart is to facilitate discussion in the community. It will use free trade coffee from East Timor to support the country’s fledgling economy. Cr Allan said the concept aims to bring the community together.

The idea was pitched to council by Cr Maire Sheehan, who hopes the project fosters community spirit and will provide feedback and ideas for council to act on.

Racist diatribes leave MP unimpressed
A racist leaflet was circulated through Balmain last month, bearing the text “Australia First” and “Put an end to ethnic gang intimidation”. Member for Balmain Verity Firth said that such beliefs were out of step with those of the Balmain community. “Tolerance, acceptance and harmony are values that our community is known for,” Ms Firth said.“I sincerely hope that such material has come from outside the area.” The leaflet, which did not list any person or organisation as its creator, encouraged people to attend a protest rally at Elkington Park on March 23. Sergeant Gorman from Leichhardt Police said nothing happened at Elkington Park on the day and the proposed rally was a non-event. Sergeant Gorman also said no arrests had been made over the leaflet.

Be proud of your workmanship
Entries are now open for Balmain Rotary’s Pride of Workmanship Awards. The awards honor individuals who have the sense of responsibility to do a job well, and give back to the community they serve. Local employers can nominate one of their employees for the award. Judith Ward from Rotary said she expects around 10 to 12 awards will be presented. Entries for the awards close on April 30. The awards will be presented at Rotary’s Anniversary Dinner on May 26. For information on making a nomination, contact Judith Ward on jaward@ozemail.com.au or mail to P Box 123, Rozelle NSW 2039. .O.

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