Australia continues to slide down the world rankings on virtually all tables that chart democratic progress, freedom from corruption, economic management and good global citizenship.

The Economist Intelligence Unit revealed yesterday that Australia has just fallen to 10th place on its annual democracy index. This continues the steady slide since the 2013 change of government.

Through the Labor period, Australia rose through the global rankings from 10th in 2008 to sixth in 2010, bettered only by Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and New Zealand. Australia retained sixth spot until 2014, when several other countries sneaked ahead leaving Australia a lowly ninth. In yesterday’s report, Australia was relegated behind those five countries and also Finland, Switzerland, Canada and Ireland.

The Democracy Index “provides a snapshot of the state of democracy worldwide for 165 independent states … based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture”.

Australia has gone backwards since 2012 on both electoral process and political culture. The report notes:

“Australia’s general election granted the Liberal-National coalition another term in government. However, the coalition was left in a significantly weakened position, presaging a legislative impasse. In both Australia and New Zealand the electorate has little confidence in political parties, but public support for democratic institutions remains strong.”

The other dismal decline Down Under, announced this week and reported elsewhere in Crikey, was Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index. Australia’s ignominious slide in perceived corruption continues, due mainly to rampant tax evasion, it seems. Ranking has slipped from ninth in 2013, to 11th in 2014, then 13th in 2015 and 2016.

Although Transparency International did not single Australia out, rich countries in general copped a serve for tax and finance rorts:

“As the Panama Papers showed, it is still far too easy for the rich and powerful to exploit the opaqueness of the global financial system to enrich themselves at the expense of the public good.”

Other global indices on which Australia has tumbled since the September 2013 election include:

  • economic freedom as measured by Heritage Foundation down from third in the world to fifth;
  • ranking on annual GDP growth has slid from seventh to 13th;
  • in Credit Suisse’s global wealth report, total wealth per adult is down from second to fourth; median wealth is down from highest to third,
  • wealth as measured by GDP per person, adjusted by purchasing power parity (PPP), has fallen from 17th to 19th, overtaken by Bahrain and Germany,
  • on the World Justice Project’s rule of law index, down from eighth to 11th;
  • on the WEF global competitiveness index down from 20th in 2012-13 to 22nd now;
  • on Independent Australia ranking on economic management (IAREM), down from first to 13th;
  • on the Arcadis global infrastructure investment index, Australia slipped from eighth in 2012 to ninth in 2014 and down to 11th in 2016; and
  • Standard & Poor’s credit rating slipped from AAA with a positive outlook to a negative outlook in July last year.

The one area of success the Coalition appears to have had since 2013, thanks to an extraordinarily sympathetic mainstream media, is that most citizens remain blissfully unaware that Australia is tanking relative to the rest of the world in these buoyant economic times.

This explains Australia’s one advance — on the happiness index published by the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network. In 2016, Australia improved its ranking to ninth in the world, behind the usual suspects: Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, Netherlands and New Zealand.

That’s up from 10th in 2015, and 2013 although equal with the 2012 ranking which was also ninth. Crikey is happy about this.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey