Jan 12, 2018

Have dodgy pollies really cost Australia $72 billion?

This week The Australia Institute made headlines with a report claiming the nation's corruption (or perception thereof) has cost us $72 billion since 2012. We put the question to TAI's research director Rod Campbell: are we really that dodgy?

Meg Watson — Associate editor

Meg Watson

Associate editor

It's hard to see Australia as a totally corrupt nation. Where do you think we sit alongside other countries?

Obviously we're not a totally corrupt nation. By global standards, we're a governed liberal democracy with strong institutions. [The report] isn't about saying we're a corrupt nation. But it is about looking at how we're going. Australia's ranking and score on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index has declined substantially since 2012. We went from 7th to 13th place in terms of lists of countries. But ranking of countries is really a conversation starter. The points score is more important: that we've gone from 85 to 79 [out of 100]. 

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14 thoughts on “Have dodgy pollies really cost Australia $72 billion?

  1. AR

    I think that is axiomatic that people who seek political office & preferment are, by definition, unsuitable – for trust or respect.
    Have a look at your local council, R/E agents, solicitors and the other barnacles & detritus of modern society and that’s just kindie.

    1. Robert Beverley

      I’ve pondered this often and without satisfactory resolution.

      The people most suited to power are, in general, the least likely to desire such. The opposite is also true.

  2. Awkward

    I still can’t believe the Coalition’s NBN policy was launched at Fox Studios and PAID for by Newscorp. If that is not dodgy then we can all just go and sit on the beach.

    1. AR

      As in Nevil Shute, the inexorable, inevitable & unavoidable endgame of neoliberalism.
      That damned Invisible Hand is always in someone else’s pocket.

  3. old greybearded one

    Price Waterhouse Coopers?? They are part of it along with the others of the big four. They advise on government policy while telling their clients how to avoid it, specifically in NSW, how to profit from it. Eddie Obeid and co were prime examples, but ICAC had plenty more to say until they were cut off at the knees. Look at Canavan, look at the LNP superannuants on mining boards. Look at Robb with his cushy China sinecure having, I think, betrayed his own country. Look at Blunderby Joyce, the water thief’s friend being rewarded by Rinehart. Look at the ludicrous and commercially disastrous decisions in NSW, for which corruption is the only apparently rational explanation. Like your interviewee, I can’t believe noone from the AWB got put in the slammer, but they were darlings of the NFF and the (multi)Nationals weren’t they.

    1. zut alors

      To be fair, Old Greybearded One, players in the AWB affair had formidable collective amnesia – how could they give evidence to any investigative organ when facts had simply flown from their heads? The most severely affected was the hapless Lord (I don’t recall, I can’t be sure, I don’t know) Downer…although he rebounded to resume a normal life almost overnight after evidence concluded at the Cole Inquiry.

  4. JQ

    Don’t forget Bruce Billson, the federal Liberal MP and small business minister who was receiving a salary from the Franchise Council of Australia while still a member of parliament. Oh, and Andrew Robb, the trade minister who signed Australia’s FTA with China (among others) and then immediately began working for the Chinese corporation to whom Australia sold the Port of Darwin. That Fluffy didn’t bat an eyelid over these naked breaches of the ministerial code of conduct tells you everything you need to know about our illustrious PM.

  5. klewso

    Brush an honest politician and fleas/ticks are bound to drop from their tail.

    A “conflict of interest” seems to depend more on where you’re sitting (eg on) the more blurred?

    “…. shocked when Ian MacFarlane walked out of being the mining minister to becoming the head of the Queensland Resources Council”? The bloke that accepted a watch (while Abbott and Robert got one each, for themselves and their wives) from a “Chinese businessman” (from a plastic bag) in Canberra “opening ears” to his party on the cusp of winning government in 2013; and then for purposes of “valuing them”, for purposes of declaring them on the “gifts register”, Googled “fake”, rather than taking it to a jeweller. Who only “took it further” (for proper assessment – in Sydney, rather than Canberra or ‘Groom’?) when Ian Goodenough rumbled him wearing it – “within earshot” of others?
    To whom “The Clerk of the House” said “You can keep your $40,000 watch that you claimed was worth only worth $300-500 – because it’s on the register.”???? What a fantastic precedent?
    And what happened to that Chinese businessman who seems to have evaded customs/excise by bringing such “gifts” (worth $250,000) into the country the cheap-looking way he did, looking fake : compared to Dastyari’s case? SFA.

    1. AR

      If the watches were genuine the giver, or his agent who carried them through Customs evaded duty which is an offence attracting heavy fines & confiscation.
      If they were fakes, whoever carried them through Customs committed an offence of trademark infringement to which substantial fines also apply.
      This is before even broaching the subject of corrupt beneficiaries and the mall matter of national security “within hearing”.
      Three criminal offences, one civil offence and who knows what effect on the security of the nation.
      Looks like we copped a Woodside.

  6. donhanoi

    Sure there are hundreds / thousands of examples of corruption and excessive ‘ entitlements’…. but is there a root cause. In human nature, of course, it is in greed and competition. In the societal values, we have allowed troffospheres*** to form around our centres of government and business (councils, courts, regulators, Canberra, state capitals etc) populated by representatives, appointed managers, investors, media, lobbyists, advisers, political minions …. for whom the public / national wellbeing is obscured by greed, competition, fear, arrogance, professional indolence etc etc. But what allows these piggery fests? Perhaps it derives from the duopoly of the major parties, which become captured by special interests and then select and discipline our representatives to “conform and enjoy”. Towards a solution? cap and publicise in real time all donations in cash and kind at $1000 per voter, and only voters.
    *** derived from ‘trough’, continuously filled by funds directed by the pigs

  7. Agrippa

    “Under John Howard, there were quite strict ministerial codes of conducts, and when you stepped out of them, you were sacked”
    Until Warwick Parer was about to be minister number 5. Howard then gave up and …the rest is history.

  8. drsmithy

    Yes, corruption is widespread and endemic. Though it’s very rarely so crass as money in paper bags, or even jobs and scholarships for the kids.

    People should read “Game of Mates”. It’s an eye-opener.

  9. [email protected]

    Vigilance and accountability are essential for the defence of our democracy.
    Our law makers and public institutions should be subject to continuous scrutiny.
    We cannot rely upon the media alone to call out fraud and misconduct.
    Our laws are slow to evolve and have not kept up with the cunning and manipulative amongst us.

  10. Greg Longney

    One issue not mentioned that has irked me for long time – the constant use of ‘commercial in confidence’ provisions to obstruct the release and scrutiny of contract details relating to government projects, often involving huge amounts of taxpayer’s money.
    This can hide corrupt or questionable decisions, sometimes for decades to come – long after the politicians and their cronies have retired and enjoyed the benefits of dubious decisions.
    I have a theory that governments often enter into a private/public partnership rather than funding projects directly for simply this reason (to avoid scrutiny), even if a business case would indicate a far superior result for taxpayers for direct funding.
    My view is that ‘commercial in confidence’ should be banned for government funded projects – it is our money after all and we deserve oversight concerning how it is being spent. I am extremely dubious of the argument that this would reduce the number or quality of bids – I believe this is effect is overstated, and perhaps the ones who would choose not to bid in this circumstance are the ones we don’t really want to be involved anyway?

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