In 2012 Treasurer Wayne Swan took the startling step of publicly declaring that "the rising power of vested interests is undermining our equality and threatening our democracy".
He argued "a handful of vested interests that have pocketed a disproportionate share of the nation's economic success now feel they have a right to shape Australia's future to satisfy their own self-interest".
At the time some were quick to dismiss it as the rhetorical posturing of a Labor government that had mishandled major reforms, but there are also good reasons to believe this may be a growing problem.
We rely on governments to make rules that keep our most powerful corporate players in line and protect us all from their overzealous excesses. But what if the corporates have so much political influence that our governments have started enabling rather than constraining them?
As part of a new study, I looked into the detail of what our parliaments actually legislated in response to major scandals around corporate excess. The findings were concerning.
At the height of the supermarket price wars there were scandals around the major supermarkets' treatment of farmers. Extraordinary stories of bullying and intimidation emerged.
Coles and Woolworths accounted for about 73 per cent of the grocery market at the time, and acted as gatekeepers that determined whether their suppliers could access the consumer market.
Farmers' complaints ranged from the supermarkets retrospectively changing prices and values of orders after production began, to being required to pay for goods damaged, stolen or unsold in store.
Amid the furore, farmers called for a compulsory code of conduct to regulate the sector.
The government ended up opting for a voluntary code drafted by the supermarkets, which lacked penalties or ombudsman oversight.
The government received an avalanche of independent advice, including from the ACCC, that the code would be ineffective in addressing the problems in the sector, but they proceeded anyway.
This turned out to be a common pattern when I looked at our 10 most powerful companies clashes with government.
If the major corporates' economic power is translating into political power, which is then enabling them to win laws that further entrench their economic dominance, then we have entered the dangerous Medici Cycle.
We must continue to push for an independent commission against corruption with powers to investigate our federal government. As the Coalition government resists, we need to echo their own mantra back at them: 'If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear'.
Dr Lindy Edwards is a senior lecturer in politics at the UNSW Canberra and the author of Corporate Power in Australia: Do the 1% rule?