2 February 2023

Australia's corruption and transparency ratings heading in the right direction

| Chris Johnson
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Parliament House

Australia has bettered its Corruption Perceptions Index ranking. Photo: James Coleman.

Australia has improved its ranking in the anti-corruption stakes, with government and public institutions receiving global recognition for gains made in official transparency.

Transparency International has released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which lifts Australia’s global position from 18 to 13 – one place ahead of Canada – and marginally increases its overall CPI score from 73 to 75 out of 100.

It reverses a continual downward spiral and record low for Australia and places it in the top four for the region – behind New Zealand (87), Singapore (83) and Hong Kong (76).

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The improved ranking is attributed to the passing of legislation for the establishment of a national anti-corruption commission.

But the index’s report says Australia still has more work to do to strengthen whistleblower protection if it wants to improve its ranking.

Stronger rules around lobbying and political donations were also a concern.

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“After years of decline, Australia (75) is showing positive signs this year,” the report states.

“Most notably, the government elected last year fulfilled its promise to pass historic legislation for a new national anti-corruption commission.

“Yet there is still more work that needs to be done, including more comprehensive whistleblower protection laws, and caps and real-time disclosure on political donations.

“Greater transparency and longer cooling-off periods to reduce the ‘revolving doors’ of lobbying must also be prioritised.”

A bill to reform Australia’s public sector whistleblower protections is under consideration, but human rights campaigners have highlighted what they describe as weaknesses in what is being proposed.

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Late last year, Transparency International Australia, along with the Human Rights Law Centre and Griffith University’s Centre for Governance and Public Policy, delivered a submission to the Senate inquiry calling for a more comprehensive reform process to ensure stronger protections for Australian whistleblowers.

“Public interest whistleblowers make Australia a better place,” the submission states.

“They should be protected, not punished. However, it is clear Australia’s whistleblower protection laws are not fulfilling their beneficial intent and that serious, comprehensive reform is needed across multiple areas of Commonwealth law to achieve this outcome.

“Our organisations welcome the Public Interest Disclosure Amendment (Review) Bill 2022 as a sign of the government’s commitment to embark on such reform. However, the bill itself contains only very limited steps towards improved protections.”

Since its inception in 1995, the Corruption Perceptions Index has become the leading global indicator of public sector corruption.

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The index scores 180 countries and territories around the world based on perceptions of public sector corruption, using data from 13 external sources, including the World Bank, World Economic Forum, private risk and consulting companies, think tanks and others.

According to the CPI report, the scores reflect the views of experts and businesspeople.

Transparency International’s chief executive officer Daniel Eriksson called on governments to prioritise anti-corruption commitments, reinforce checks and balances, and uphold rights to information.

“Governments must open up space to include the public in decision-making – from activists and business owners to marginalised communities and young people,” he said.

“In democratic societies, the people can raise their voices to help root out corruption and demand a safer world for us all.”

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