Corruption count stays still
Australia's anti-corruption efforts seem to have stalled, with the nation still trailing behind its peers.
The 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) has placed Australia in 14th position, despite the Albanese government's sweeping integrity reforms post-2021.
Among these reforms are the establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and a pledge to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) emphasising integrity, honesty, and accountability.
Transparency International Australia (TIA) CEO Clancy Moore believes that, with a bit more effort, Australia could become a frontrunner in battling corruption.
However, recent scandals including robodebt and the PwC tax leak affair have dented public trust in institutional and political integrity.
Moore says that for a perceptible improvement, Australia needs to focus on “reducing the influence of big money in politics, delivering on whistleblower protections, and passing long overdue legislation to crack down on foreign bribery and money laundering”.
The CPI, which assesses 180 countries on perceived public sector corruption levels, awarded Denmark the top spot with a score of 90 out of 100.
Australia, on the other hand, received a score of 75 – unchanged from the previous year and significantly lower than its peak score of 85 a decade ago.
The Asia-Pacific region as a whole reflects a worrying trend, with an average score of just 45, indicating a general decline in trust.
Despite the establishment of the NACC and promises of electoral reform, TIA's polling indicates that 76 per cent of Australians view government corruption as a ‘quite big’ or ‘very big’ problem.
The Albanese government's efforts are seen as a positive start, but as Moore puts it, “there’s a new chapter waiting to be written in 2024”.
This year, the spotlight is on a senate inquiry into lobbying and anticipated reforms to increase transparency in political donations.
AJ Brown, a public integrity expert and TIA chair, highlights the need for more transparent lobbying laws.
He argues that current practices allow wealthy individuals and organisations to buy political access, leaving other voices unheard and eroding public trust.
Brown also underscores the importance of whistleblower protections, describing them as “one of the next key steps to restoring Australia’s anti-corruption reputation”.