By Adam Carlton
Driving the growing call for a national corruption commission the growing perception from the public that corruption in the worlds of politics and business is a growing blight in Australia.
The rate of exposure of instances seems to be going up. Then there is the Banking Royal Commission and the operations of Adani and so on. More whistleblowers have been coming forward with their stories.
Now there are the findings of the Transparency International, via its Transparency International Perception Index (CPI) in 2018, which were released last week. Perception of corruption continues a rise that began in 2012.
The CPI is limited, because of its reliance on the opinions of those deemed experts and business executives. The perception of the level of corruption across the broader society is underestimated. There is also a greater prejudice as to how Australia ranks in the world. It is often assumed, especially in more conservative circles , that the economically developed west is less corrupt than the rest of the world.
Despite these weaknesses, the finding still paints a bad picture.
Corruption is determined through 13 measures, including the use of public office for private gain, nepotism, bribery, the diversion of public money and state capture, the existence of adequate laws on financial disclosure, conflict of interest prevention and access to information.
The experts and business executives said that there are no consequences for breaching federal lobbying rules and the freedom of information regime is undermined by delays, costs and record rates of refusals. Failures in transparency face little to no punishment.
It stands to reason, that there is little appetite among the political and business elite to change arrangements they are benefiting from.
Transparency International Australia’s chief executive Serena Lillywhite said, a well appointed commission with a broad remit must be a priority and branded the proposal that the Coalition has put forward, for having a far too high threshold, before it can lead to an investigation as not good enough.
The weak response is a reaction to the immense pressure the government is feeling and amounts to a tilt at pretending to do something. Under this, the bulk of corruption would continue to go unchecked.
Serena Lillywhite continued. “Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions and, in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption”.
Unless more is done to cure Australia of this sickness, the future will bring even worse.