Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, trust in government had reached its lowest level on record, according to a major study conducted by The Australian National University. Just 25% of Australians said they had confidence in their political leaders and institutions. The study of the 2019 federal election also found Australians’ satisfaction with democracy was at its lowest since the constitutional crisis of the 1970s. A huge 56% believe democracy is not working – that government is run for a “few big interests”. Just 12% believe the government is run for “all the people”.
It is not just the big scandals, such as the sports rorts and travel rorts, that eat away at our trust and faith in politicians and the system. It is the near daily stories of appalling behaviour – be it broken promises, the grants that don’t comply with the rules, the cavalier and unaccountable spending of taxpayers’ money, the ex-politicians who take up jobs in apparent defiance of the rules, the conflicts of interest and the jobs for the boys – that constantly chip away at our trust in politicians.
While trust in government has rebounded somewhat because of the government’s response to the pandemic, the underlying conduct has not changed. And with every story published about rorting of the system, the calls for a federal integrity commission get louder and louder. The Coalition government promised in December 2018 to establish a federal integrity commission, and published an overview of the proposed reforms, but is yet to release draft legislation.
As Stephen Charles QC, a former Victorian court of appeal judge and board member of the Centre for Public Integrity, noted last week, many have called out the sports rorts in particular as political corruption. Yet Porter’s proposed integrity commission “would have no jurisdiction to investigate the sports rorts, any inquiry would be conducted in secret, and there would be no public report of any investigation”.
Charles said a proper federal integrity commission was the key to solving issues of integrity and restoring confidence in government. “All of the states have now got integrity commissions; plainly the commonwealth should have one too. And the only party that’s opposing it is the Coalition.”
On these pages we will be calling out all behaviour dating back for at least 10 years that fails the pub test. It is important to highlight all examples of poor conduct in public life because they paint a powerful picture of the apparent contempt in which many politicians hold their employers, the Australian public, the very people who pay their salaries.
We’ll keep adding to the list. And if you have something, to add, please get in touch.
We have branded the list of scandal, rorts and questionable behaviour QED, which translates from the Latin, quod erat demonstrandum, as “so it has been proved”. Click on the box “Q.E.D: The case for a federal ICAC” below to start …
Michael West established Michael West Media in 2016 to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. West was formerly a journalist and editor with Fairfax newspapers, a columnist for News Corp and even, once, a stockbroker.