Politics Opinion

Corruption is 'endemic' in Australia

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Cartoon by Mark David/@markdavidcartoons

The damage from corruption in the Federal Government is felt by the Australian taxpayer in the waste of tax dollars and the loss of a fair and democratic society.

The cost of corruption in the Federal Government is estimated to be in the billions of Australian taxpayer dollars each year.

The cost to establish a well-funded commission against corruption is reportedly a fraction of this figure.

Australians have been told by the current and former prime ministers that appropriate agencies have been established to safeguard us from slipping into corruption.

One of the real concerns about corruption is the ongoing costs to the Australian taxpayer of establishing agencies and institutions tasked with investigating corruption. However, they are as far from independent as possible.

It is the Government’s responsibility through their various departments in the Australian public service (APS) to manage the administration of policies in the interests of the people. If the APS is not independent, it cannot advise the Government in an objective manner.

This, obviously, negatively impacts on the outcomes of the Government's policies for the very people who are paying for them, the Australian public.

Corruption is allowed to go unnoticed when influence over the APS by the political party that holds power ensures any claims of corruption within government are covered up by agencies that are relied on to be transparent and trustworthy.

Reports of the politicisation of the APS and various key agencies within the APS are numerous. Reports of the politicisation of APS agencies, both within their own agencies and in Australian politics, are prolific.

The investigation of political corruption in Australia is largely the responsibility of various federal government agencies, one being the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

Reports of the politicising of the AFP have been surfacing in the media for over a decade.

If a Federal Government employee wishes to report corruption within an agency, it should be reported to the AFP if the agency that employee works for makes the complaint, otherwise the AFP will send it back to the agency.

If the agency does not want the alleged corruption investigated, they will not make a complaint to the AFP to have it investigated. There are numerous reports that suggest this is the central reason why corruption exists and why politicians in Australia are not made accountable. 

A classic example of this was the "sports rorts" scandal. Then there were the car park rorts.

Reports of how staff in the agencies that are entrusted to ensure these problems don’t occur appear to side with the Government of the day are also numerous. 

Other claims of corruption allegations against politicians within the Government and the lack of investigative action by government heads of department are also too numerous to individually document. 

But why is corruption such a problem?

Key positions, including heads of Commonwealth government departments, are picked by the captain. 

They are picked for their capacities and perhaps for their close ties with the Government of the day and then appear to be rewarded.

What of the whistle-blowers in the APS who stand tall and tell their stories of corrupt government officials for the sake of all Australians? Does not the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 protect them from the greedy, self-interested and corrupt?

Unfortunately, there are more than enough reports of how this Act was established to protect the wrongdoers and punish the whistle-blowers which require new investigations of their own. 

What of freedom of information laws that allow Australian citizens to require information that they are lawfully entitled to? Would not this reveal evidence of corruption in Australia? 

Again, the reports of the failure of this process, a right all Australians have, is deserving of a whole separate investigation itself.

Any leader of any government faced with such a large number of reports that indicate wholesale corruption within their ranks and government agencies would of course, want to rid the country of such a cancer. But the opposite is the case in Australia.

It is the intention of the Federal ICAC Now party to combat these established and systemic avenues of corruption for all Australians, regardless of our differing political persuasions.

Ken Carroll is a Queensland senate candidate for Federal ICAC Now (FIN).

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