Events of recent weeks have highlighted political sleaze and corruption in Western Australia, NSW and Queensland. But what about in Victoria and South Australia? Is it coincidental that only the states with permanent anti-corruption watchdogs are the ones which uncover seamy political deals? Or does official corruption stop at state borders?
Of course not. As investigative journalist Bob Bottom points out in Crikey today, the revelations in WA only emerged because of the powers of the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission. The same is true of a series of revelations that have been uncovered by the independent scrutiny of similar watchdogs in NSW and Queensland.
As they squirm and deflect, state governments with anti-corruption commissions should make sure they continue to protect them. And states without independent mechanisms should have them – although as the director of the National Institute for Governance at the University of Canberra Stephen Bartos points out, there’s a great reluctance by political parties to set up independent watchdogs that could unearth politically embarrassing material.
The High Court ruling on WorkChoices yesterday was another blow to states’ rights – and when it comes to sleaze that is probably a good thing.