Wednesday 1st of December 2021

democracy is not a spectator sport...


A look at Australia's billion-dollar political lobbying industry, Christiaan Van Vuuren's unlikely journey shows us why we should care, and how we can safeguard our democracy from being sold to the highest bidder.

Premiered Tuesday 19 October at 8.30pm on ABC iview and ABC TV

  • Christiaan Van Vuuren


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bondi hipster...

Christiaan van Vuuren got through a six-month stint in hospital in 2009 by making YouTube videos with his brother. It prepared him well for staying busy and getting creative in the year of Covid-19.

You’ve kept yourself very busy in spite of it all in 2020.

I think I got super lucky, and maybe the fact that I first started making stuff while quarantined in a hospital room 10 years ago may have worked in my favour fractionally this year when people decided they needed to be able to make stuff cost-effectively with smaller crews and under more difficult conditions. I’m feeling super fortunate to have been able to make it through the year while still being in the industry and not have to go study real estate at TAFE.

Tell me more about this hospital room 10 years ago.  

I was quarantined with multi-drug-resistant TB in 2009, and I spent six months in hospital with tuberculosis, in a three-by-four-metre room, and had to wait there until they cracked the code of the different antibiotics that they could use to kill this strain. And that’s where I started making stuff: I made a YouTube video from in there that went viral and my brother and I started making stuff together. Part of what got me through those six months was my brother sticking on a mask and gloves and hanging out with me in quarantine and starting to make stuff together.

Back to this year: Dom and Adrian are back.

Probably to the pain of many people in the world.

But for you, does it feel good to be slipping back into those characters?

I mean the fun thing now is returning to the characters with a bit of maturity. Since we first started making those videos (the Bondi Hipsters) in 2012, we’ve grown up a lot. I’ve had a kid, and the new angle coming back to the characters, what made it fun for us, was this idea of them rushing towards 40 but being the last guys in their friend group who haven’t started doing actual life shit, like having kids and buying houses. They’re still stuck in that world of carrying on like they’re in their early 20s. So the fun thing for us was just ageing the characters up to 37 – which is where we’re at – and throwing some new challenges at them.


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Interestingly, Bondi is the centre of the universe. For those who follow the saga of the "Bondi Pavillion" which is fine the way it is, there are always politicians and big business and council concillors who want to "develop" the pavillion into a giant tub of ice-cream-making-cash. And this not new... Take this article from The Sydney Morning Herald for example, March 1959...(Original paper in Gus's private collection of useless stuff)




Note: The image at top came from our article on "donations to political party in 2014/15"... plus Christiaan Van Vuuren's mug. I cannot find the yourdemocracy-link, due to my conputer being too old — born in the steam engine era, when the net did not have so many security hoops and gates...




mockery of democracy....

The Coalition government has blocked an inquiry into donations to Christian Porter made through a blind trust, in a procedural move the opposition blasted as a “mockery” that had never occurred in the history of Parliament.

Despite Speaker of the House, Tony Smith – a Liberal MP – deeming there was a “prima facie” case to refer Mr Porter to Parliament’s privileges committee, the government voted to shield the former attorney-general from further scrutiny.

“For 120 years this has been a key protection against corruption. Today the Morrison-Joyce government abandoned this principle,” Labor’s Tony Burke said.


“This is a disgraceful, shameful moment in Australian political history.”

On Monday, Mr Burke – the manager of opposition business – had asked that Mr Porter’s blind trust issue be examined by the privileges committee.

Mr Porter resigned as Minister for Industry last month, after declining to publicly name the donors who had contributed to his legal fees for a defamation case against the ABC.

Labor had wanted Parliament to consider whether this breached rules around declarations of gifts or interests for politicians, which must be publicly listed.

Tweet from @AlboMP

Mr Porter said his case had become a “distraction” for the government, but said the trustee had reassured him no money had come from lobbyists or prohibited foreign entities.

Mr Smith, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, considered the request and said on Wednesday afternoon he was “satisfied that a prima facie case has been made” for Mr Porter’s case to be referred to the committee.

But the government opposed a subsequent motion moved by Mr Burke to refer the case.

Labor claimed it was the first time in the history of Australia’s federal Parliament that this had occurred.


“As far as I’m aware … since federation there has never been a time where the house has voted down a resolution after precedence was given,” Labor leader Anthony Albanese claimed.

“In opposing the motion, the government is saying ‘don’t even look, just pretend and walk away’.”

Mr Burke claimed the disclosure system would be “obliterated” unless Mr Porter’s blind trust issue could be scrutinised further.

“We need to oppose a system where members of Parliament can keep secret who is giving them money for personal bills,” he said.

But Defence Minister Peter Dutton, the government’s leader of the house, said the Coalition opposed the specific referral of Mr Porter.

Instead, he said he’d written to the the chair of the privileges committee, Liberal MP Russell Broadbent, asking for clarity on how politicians should declare contributions such as that received by Mr Porter.

In the letter, Mr Dutton asked for “clarification” on “the receipt of anonymous or crowd funded donations by way of paying for legal expenses”.

Government sources said they believed Labor’s proposed referral was too narrow, and the Coalition wanted the wider issue of anonymous donations to be examined.

“There is a sensible discussion to be had at the appropriate time between the government and the opposition to see what the appropriate next step might be,” Mr Dutton said in a speech to Parliament.

He went on to refer to crowd funded donations raised by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, for a defamation case of her own.

Mr Dutton complained several donations given to Senator Hanson-Young were publicly listed as coming from donors named as “John 51884010”, “Anna B.”, and “E.T”.

The minister claimed there was “no transparency” in that process, and said it needed clarification.

However, Senator Hanson-Young said nearly all the donations she received were actually under the $300 cap for mandatory disclosure, and that she decided voluntarily to list them all on her disclosure forms.

“There were 1800 donations. 1600 were under $100 and more than half of all donations were under $20. Eight donations were above the disclosable $300 threshold, the highest of which was $1000,” Senator Hanson-Young told The New Daily.

“It is in stark contrast to large donations given in secret and hidden from the parliamentary register and the Australian public. I have declared all donations in the spirit of members’ and senators’ interests and Mr Porter should do the same.”

Neither Mr Porter’s legal fees nor the amount received into his blind trust have been publicly disclosed, but Labor claims it could be as high as $1 million.

Labor and the Greens reacted with swift outrage to the government voting down Mr Porter’s referral to the privileges committee.

Greens leader Adam Bandt blasted the move as “appalling” and a “profound attack on democracy”.

Mr Burke claimed it would pave the way for other MPs to obscure donations in trusts, and make a “mockery” of disclosure requirements.

“With this vote Mr Morrison has signalled to all his MPs that they are free to hide their financial interests behind so-called “blind trusts” – completely undermining the whole purpose of the Register of Members’ Interests,” he said.

Labor MP Josh Burns tweeted “corruption”.

In protest over the government’s move to block the inquiry, Labor refused to grant the government leave to move basic procedural matters for a short while.

“I find it, quite frankly, extraordinary that the government would be in a position of rejecting a recommendation from the Speaker, in granting precedence as you have,” Mr Albanese said.

Mr Albanese, who acted as leader of the house between 2007 and 2013, said he would never have “even considered” following suit during his time in government.


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the gamey politics...

A secretive parliamentary committee with the power to recommend punishment for MPs is considering Christian Porter’s use of a “blind trust” to pay for part of his legal fees, along with the broader issue of anonymous donations sourced via crowdfunding.

Several backbench Liberal MPs are uncomfortable about having to continue to defend Mr Porter, while former Supreme Court judge Anthony Whealy QC warns questions about perceived conflicts of interest will remain as long as the donors stay secret.

“It’s gaming the system. If it’s technically legal, that doesn’t make it right,” said one Coalition MP, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Several government MPs told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age they were upset about setting a precedent allowing donors to the trust to remain secret, with Leader of the House Peter Dutton moving to reassure them that the issue will be looked at.


The House of Representatives’ privileges committee will consider the issues, despite Parliament voting against referring the Porter matter.


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