As Australians’ Corruption Concerns Increase, Griffith University Study Proposes National Integrity Commission Options

Amidst the continuing turmoil within the Australian government’s senior leadership, two developments this week highlight the extent of the Australian public’s trust in government and concerns over corruption.  On August 20, Griffith University announced the results of a Global Corruption Barometer survey that Griffith University and Transparency International Australia jointly conducted:

  • Trust and confidence in all levels of government decreased over the last year to 46 percent for federal and state levels and 51 percent for local government nationally.
  • Fewer than 2 percent of respondents indicated that they had experienced bribery, but 62 percent indicated concerns about officials or politicians using their position to benefit themselves or their families, and 56 percent indicated concerns about officials favoring businesses and individuals in return for political donations or political support.
  • A surprising 85 percent of respondents indicated that at least “some” federal Members of Parliament are corrupt, and 18 percent indicated that “most/all” Members are corrupt.
  • Only 37 percent indicated that the federal government is doing a “good job”, and only 25 percent indicated that that state government is doing a “good job”, in fighting corruption.
  • In contrast, 67 percent — especially in Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia — support the idea of creating a new federal anti-corruption body, and respondents “strongly supporting” the idea outnumber respondents “strongly opposing” it by a 4-to-1 margin.

On August 21, Griffith University announced the issuance of a paper reviewing options for a national integrity commission. The paper, titled Strengthening Australia’s National Integrity System: Priorities for Reform, has Griffith University Professors A J Brown and Professor Janet Ransley as lead co-authors.  It sets forth three options for a national integrity commission:

  • Option 1: An Integrity & Anti-Corruption Coordination Council. This option, which would be closest to the existing multi-agency system, would report to the Prime Minister or Attorney-General and provide improved, more formalized coordination between the existing agencies involved.
  • Option 2: An Independent Commission Against Corruption. This option “would involve a best-practice independent, broad-based anti-corruption commission for the Commonwealth,” based on lessons from experience in states such as New South Wales.
  • Option 3: A custom-built Commonwealth Integrity Commission model. This option, the most comprehensive of the three proposals, “would represent a major development in an effort to help address all the main weaknesses of the existing multi-agency system.”  “It would involve a best-practice independent, broad-based public sector anti-corruption commission for the Commonwealth, including lessons from State experience, but also with a broader range of functions relevant to the Commonwealth’s role and present needs – jurisdictionally, nationally and internationally.”

In conclusion, the paper states that “a comprehensive approach [to integrity and anti-corruption] is needed.” It notes that such an approach “requires the Commonwealth to take a leadership role, even if not the sole role, to help ensure that subnational anti-corruption bodies are properly coordinated, share information, participate in the type of improved framework envisaged by Option 3, and help identify where strategic oversight and vigilance by Commonwealth agencies will help make the most difference.”  It further states that “this is also the right opportunity for the Commonwealth, through the Attorney-General’s Department, to resume the unfinished task of a comprehensive national strategic plan to combat corruption.”

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