(Image: AAP/Private Media)

We’re at the business end of the corruption season now, with today’s blockbuster grand final match-up between our two victorious semi-finalists.

On Wednesday, Dan Andrews blew Annastacia Palaszczuk out of the park with a stunning performance that will send the Queenslanders back home with a lot of thinking to do if they’re going to be competitive in the corruption stakes next season.

And yesterday, Scott Morrison edged out Gladys Berejiklian in an absolute nailbiter that went right down to the wire. The prime minister was forced to dig deep and pull something magical out to defeat a surging NSW premier — and boy did he produce, with a cracking proposal for an integrity body that would actually help hide corruption.

So on paper, Morrison would look to have the edge over his Victorian rival — with whom he has been engaging in constant sledging for the last six months. But has Andrews got a surprise or two left?

Before the main event, we’ve got a great contest between the last-placed major finalist, Queensland, and the best of the rest. On Wednesday, South Australia showed that it’s not just all about lovely wines and stinking hot summers, but can mix it with the best on sleaze, easily defeating the rest of the smaller states and territories.

But what happens when South Australia, with its multiple casualties from a travel allowance scandal and the ongoing ructions over the University of Adelaide, faces the lift in quality that marks a trip to the eastern states?

As it turns out, Queensland just has too much pace and power when it comes to sleaze. With staffers-turned-lobbyists-turned-campaigners given government offices as part of a lobbying-industrial complex in which people move seamlessly between public office, political campaign and private lobbying, Queensland is the place where integrity takes a well-earned holiday.

Systemic sleaze in which the very system of government is disposed toward influence-wielding by well-connected vested interests beats out MPs engaging in some routine rorting of travel allowances.

So the Sunshine State — as befits the state that gave us Joh and the Nats — keeps its place in the big league, but South Australia is by no means disgraced. Fielding a good young team, it augurs well for corruption in future years if it can get the system right in Adelaide.

Victoria v the Commonwealth

As the players take the field for the main event, we can reflect on two strong recent histories. The Andrews government, of course, had the red shirts scandal, which for some strange reason — you’d never pick it — led to no charges at all by the Victorian police.

It also had a long and healthy tradition of branch-stacking that helped build the career of Adem Somyurek, who lost his job under Andrews previously but was welcomed back before finally making one cash drop and misogynistic comment too many.

But to illustrate the commitment of the federal Liberals, they were not about to let branch-stacking, a traditional Labor strength, go unchallenged, mounting their own branch-stacking scandal that saw powerbrokers forced from their own Victorian ranks mid-year and left questions hanging over current and former federal ministers and how they used their offices.

It may not have had quite the seedy gravitas of Victorian Labor, but the Victorian federal Liberals showed that they weren’t about to be overawed on their opponents’ turf.

The Morrison government also has deep roots in sordid behaviour — there was the handout to the government’s Business Council mates at the Great Barrier Reef Foundation in Malcolm Turnbull’s time; there are the unresolved sexual harassment allegations involving Barnaby Joyce to this day, dating from his time in the ministry, and a number of scandals in water management and animal welfare from his time in the Agriculture portfolio. The prosecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery began under Malcolm Turnbull, too.

But where the Morrison government’s real strength lies is in the truly systemic nature of its corruption. Under Scott Morrison, the Liberal and National parties sell policy to the highest donor. The Liberals have always been about serving the interest of business donors, but now donors routinely get to dictate policy, especially around energy, climate, banking and consulting, and directly benefit from government largesse.

If the Labor Party relies heavily on union donations and thus allows unions a key role in shaping policy, that limits and stymies the potential for truly systemic corruption because of the limited aims of unions relating to their memberships. The genius of the Liberal model is that it accepts donation from corporations and high wealth individuals, who then play a key role in shaping policy according to the commercial interests of corporations — bugging the Timor-Leste cabinet for Woodside, trying to block FOFA for the big banks, inventing a “gas-led recovery” for Santos and Origin, and so on.

That’s why Victorian Labor are highly-skilled, dedicated amateurs at corruption, with the whiff of student politics about them, while Scott Morrison’s government are cool, highly trained professionals strongly motivated by cash — tens of millions of it.

That’s why Scott Morrison’s government wins the 2020 prize for the sleaziest, most corrupt outfit in Australia. And what a worthy winner — all the hard work, all the rorting, all the dodging and fucking of scrutiny, all the blatant misconduct, have paid off in spades.

Truly the federal government is a deserving winner of the inaugural Gold Aldi Bag made famous by NSW Labor — a fitting symbolic passing of the torch from the thugs and crooks of that state, who set the standard so high in corruption for so long, to a new generation of right-wing spivs aiming even higher.