According to a global measure of political corruption, Australia has improved, but the same index has flagged us as one of 21 nations with serious issues on that front.
With numerous incidents of political wrongdoing captivating media attention as of late, it comes as no surprise that our international credibility as a nation is slipping. In January 2019, Transparency International released its Corruption Perceptions Index, noting Australia’s slide into wrongdoing, finding it to be the 13th least-corrupt nation.
Transparency International Australia chief executive Serena Lillywhite shared a range of issues which she believes are impairing our reputation as a democracy which actively targets corruption:
“The misuse of travel allowances, inadequate regulation of foreign political donations, conflicts of interest in planning approvals, revolving doors and a culture of mateship, inappropriate industry lobbying in large-scale projects such as mining, and the misuse of power by leading politicians have no doubt had an impact”.
Wind the clock forward a year, and while Australia has moved up a smidge, as we’re now the 12th-least corruption nation in the world, Transparency International has flagged us as one of the 21 nations where perceived corruption has worsened “significantly” over the past eight years.
Today, Serena Lillywhite explained our score to the Guardian, saying that: “What the corruption perceptions index clearly shows is that the murkier the political donations trail is, the more corrupt a country is perceived to be.”
Transparency International shares four key recommendations in order for us to buck the trend.
Putting in place laws and institutions that will prevent corruption from happening in the first place. Legal frameworks and access to information are essential components of a healthy political system where citizens can play a role in demanding accountability and preventing corruption. Whistleblower protection mechanisms and autonomous, well-resourced anti-corruption agencies are also a must in the Asia Pacific region.
Reducing impunity for the corrupt. Professional and independent justice systems are necessary where police and prosecutors can respond to technical criteria and not political power plays.
Improving space for civil society to speak out. Governments should ensure that activists can speak freely throughout the region without fear of retaliation.
Improving integrity and values. Schools and universities should educate youth about ethics and values. Corporations should promote business integrity in the private sector and make these ideas more mainstream.