Some questions of ethics. Business, politics, religion, sport and crime. All of them are giving us examples of what passes for ethical behaviour these days. The news seems to be full of lousy behaviour. And what a dismal picture of our modern society this cheating, lying, broken promises, greed and distortion portrays.

A leader’s example. Where better to start this little survey than with our beloved leader, the “got it” man. What a courageous fellow Kevin Rudd seemed back then when he strode out from Parliament House to tell worried insulation installers that he got it and would make sure they were properly looked after as the Government made the transition from its disastrous original scheme to a new one.

What a spineless fellow he now appears for getting Greg Combet to break that promise for him while he swanned around Tasmania pretending to have kept his promise to fix the nation’s health system. And what kind of buck is it that stops with Kevin Rudd when the bucks are being promised for new child care centres but sees a Prime Ministerial disappearance as the extra places disappear in the words of a junior minister? Such is the new way of political leadership and truth telling.

Australia’s government is being run by a spinning wimp.

Pull the other one. A noble attempt by a very fine Australian who found himself out of his depth yesterday as Dr Rob Moodie tried to absolve the Melbourne Storm rugby league players from the illegal shenanigans perpetrated by a wholly owned arm of the world’s most influential media magnate.

Dr Moodie was probably a flattered medical researcher when asked to chair the Storm’s Board but he clearly is a trusting soul if he thinks a person receiving payments for playing football in two separate parts does not know that a rort is going on.

Every player who signed an agreement that went to the National Rugby League for less than the amount he knew he was being paid can hardly claim to be an innocent. Rubbing out any player a knowing party to such arrangements would be the quickest and simplest way of stopping salary cap abuses.

PS: I should note for the benefit of readers that as one who ran the “Rescue the Raiders” campaign when the Canberra team was found in breach of salary cap rules many years ago I do know a thing or two about such practices. And perhaps I should disclose as well that I was part of the Murdoch team that signed players during rugby league’s Super League wars.

Murdoch naivety? News Limited are rightly embarrassed at having one of its subsidiaries exposed as a cheat in a competition it actually half owns. Chief Executive John Hartigan gave a good performance of righteous indignation at yesterday’s press conference but what kind of company is it that has one of its key financial controllers on a board and has no idea of what rorts are being performed with its money? I am sure more will be heard about who knew what and when before this saga reaches its conclusion.

Ignorance at the top seems to be a feature of the Murdoch empire. It was not long ago that the British section had employees paying bribes to secure confidential information from people’s mobile phones with editors and senior executives claiming to be unaware of where those pounds were going too. It does make you wonder about the ethical standards of an organisation that does not hesitate to criticise others for their lapses.

Not nearly destroying the financial system. At least any Murdoch empire failings did not bring the world’s financial system almost to collapse as the desperate desire of ratings agencies for a quid nearly did. First read this wonderful statement of a code of conduct for the McGraw Hill subsidiary (another publisher of sorts, no less) Standard and Poor’s:

23-04-2010 standard and poors

Now consider that in the United States later today the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will hold a detailed hearing where, reports the McClatchy news service, its chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., will introduce e-mail records in which executives from Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service acknowledge compromising the integrity of ratings to win business from big Wall Street firms.

“They did it for the big fees they got,” Levin told reporters on Thursday after outlining the broad strokes of what he’d pursue Friday when he puts current and former ratings agency officials on the hot seat.

A pair of bribers and corrupters. Perhaps the directors of Australia’s two mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto should be put on a hot seat too. Both have admitted being in the bribery business, one in China and the other in Cambodia, not to mention the strange activities of BHP Billiton in aiding and abetting a little corruption in Iraq as part of  AWB’s sanction busting efforts. A wonderful example for football players that all is.

Scared of policemen. Let’s not forget John Brumby in this little round-up either. The Victorian Premier keeps telling us that there’s no need for a Royal Commission or anything like it to look at the involvement of bent policemen in the prison murder of Carl Williams. After all, Williams was a serial killer and you never know what little black bugs run out from under rocks that an inquiry might lift up. And black bugs are not a good look, particularly in an election year when you’ve got a police union like Victoria’s

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey