Australia, known for its robust democratic institutions, rule of law and transparency, has over the years enjoyed a positive image as one of the least corrupt countries globally. However, in recent times, the country has seen a decline in its position on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) published by Transparency International. In 2020, Australia’s rank dropped to 13th place, down from 7th place in 2012, indicating an increase in perceived corruption. This paper will examine the reasons for Australia’s decline on the CPI and what measures can be taken to restore its reputation.
One of the reasons for Australia’s decline on the CPI is the lack of progress in political financing reforms. The current political financing system in Australia is opaque, with little disclosure requirements and weak regulations on campaign contributions. This has led to concerns about the influence of large donations from corporations and individuals on political decision-making. For instance, the recent controversy surrounding donations from Chinese businesspeople to the ruling Liberal Party has drawn criticism and calls for a more transparent political financing system.
Another factor contributing to Australia’s decline on the CPI is the lack of a national anti-corruption agency. Despite repeated calls from civil society organizations, the government has failed to establish a national anti-corruption agency with the powers to investigate and prosecute corruption cases. The existing agencies, such as the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, have limited powers and resources, making it difficult to effectively combat corruption. The absence of a dedicated anti-corruption agency sends a signal that the government is not fully committed to the fight against corruption.
The prevalence of corruption in the public sector is another factor that has contributed to Australia’s decline on the CPI. Corruption in the public sector undermines the trust of citizens in the government and the institutions of democracy. In recent years, there have been several high-profile corruption scandals in the public sector, including the Waterfront scandal in New South Wales and the Health Services Union scandal, which have tarnished the reputation of the government and the public sector.
Moreover, the growing influence of money in politics and the declining trust in public institutions have led to a decline in the quality of governance in Australia. The public perception is that corruption and influence peddling are rampant in the political system, with politicians and officials putting their own interests ahead of the public interest. This has contributed to a decline in the public’s trust in government and eroded the credibility of democratic institutions.
In conclusion, Australia’s decline on the CPI reflects a broader global trend of declining trust in public institutions and the erosion of democratic values. To restore its reputation, Australia must address the underlying causes of corruption and take steps to restore the public’s trust in the government and its institutions. This includes political financing reforms, the establishment of a national anti-corruption agency, and the implementation of measures to improve transparency and accountability in the public sector. By taking these steps, Australia can regain its status as a leader in the fight against corruption and ensure a brighter future for its citizens.