Australia Today

Australia Needs a Corruption Watchdog Now, Says Transparency International

We've slipped in the group's annual corruption rankings for the sixth year running.

by Liam Armstrong
22 February 2018, 4:12am

Image via Shutterstock

Australia has continued to slip in Transparency International's annual global corruption survey, falling to 13th.The organisation gave Australia 77 points out of 100—continuing a slide that's been happening since 2012, when we scored 85.

According to Transparency International, Australia's poor showing reflects the country's failure to stem corruption in the public sector. "These include money laundering, whistleblowing, political donations and the effectiveness of our systems," Transparency International Australia chairman Anthony Whealy QC said. "The Government has simply not faced up to the need to have an independent corruption agency at a national level."

Australia is one of the countries explicitly named in the report as experiencing notable declines over the past five surveys, alongside Syria and Yemen. On the whole, countries in the Asia-Pacific are experiencing higher perceptions of corruption. But our neighbours in New Zealand bucked the trend, taking the top ranking as the "cleanest" nation.

Overall, the global average score was 43 out of 100. Two-thirds of countries scored below 50, which means some 6 billon people are living in nations deemed "corrupt" according to Transparency International. Somalia beat out fierce competition from South Sudan and Syria, earning the unenviable title of the most corrupt nation state.

Transparency International Australia chief executive Serena Lillywhite said there was a laundry list of factors that had damaged Australia's reputation in terms of tackling 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," Lillywhite said.

Australian politicians are split on how to tackle corruption in the public sector. Labor has proposed a National Integrity Commission if it wins government. The Coalition has expressed reservations about the proposal. Barnaby Joyce dismissed the idea of forming a federal Independent Commission Against Corruption, arguing the Senate already does this. However, shortly after this, the deputy prime minister was embroiled in a scandal regarding his affair with a former staffer that attracted international attention, and even a roasting from John Oliver.

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