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Rotten Eggs: Corruption in Australia

Public trust in the establishment is slipping. Photo: AER

Ask citizens why their countries aren’t developing, or investors why they choose not to invest in some regions, and suspicions of deep-rooted corruption is almost always at the top of the list.

Australia, despite being an industrialised and developed nation, experiences a variety of corruption and conflict of interest sagas in industries such as banking, health, media and more. 

CORRUPTION AND CONFLICT

Corruption and conflict of interest underpins the abuse of society and the political system.

In recent decades, scholars have preferred narrow legalistic definitions of corruption. However, restricting the ambit of corruption exposes a disconnect between legal standards and popular norms, and between the view of the political and business elite and the rest of society.

Public sector corruption in Australia is similar to that in other developed nations, ranging from sources measuring corruption perceived by experts and business executives. This includes the use of public office for private gain, nepotism, bribery, the diversion of public money and state capture.

Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Australia 13th place, dropping six positions since 2012. According to this same index, corruption perception is increasing.

In addition, the phenomenon has also been studied by the Australian National University, which produced a report called Perceptions of Corruption and Ethical Conduct which concluded: 

“There is a widespread perception that corruption in Australia has increased” and that “the media, trade unions and political parties were seen as Australia’s most corrupt institutions”.

Furthermore, in January 2018, a discussion paper published by the Australia Institute, suggested that the trust in the Australian government and establishment is at a historical low.

To target corruption, the Australia Institute recommends establishing a federal anti-corruption commission to investigate and expose corruption and misconduct in politics and government.

Over the last decade, Australians have lost faith in their represented officials, law enforcement agencies, healthcare workers, lawyers and judges, banking and much more.

Let’s briefly explore some of the most common conflicts of interest or corruption found in Australia.

THE ESTABLISHMENT

POLITICAL LOBBYING

The public are becoming sceptical about lobbying, however the scepticism mainly directed towards the decision-makers themselves, not towards the hired professionals who lubricate the process.

Most lobbyists are former political advisers, like the 10 leading members of Canberra lobbying firms that have in common almost complete public anonymity — as is the case with most political staffers. 

Of those 10, perhaps Michael Photios, a former NSW state minister, is the best known. Their former bosses include Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd, Joe Hockey, Peter Costello and Mike Rann.

Their clients are a who’s who of the biggest Australian and international corporations, including Apple, Nike, McDonalds, Macquarie Group, Aldi, Woolworths, Commonwealth Bank and Theiss.

Explore more in this new piece: Australia’s political lobbying regime needs urgent reform

BANKING INDUSTRY

Australia’s banking system follows a similar tune to the political sphere, with the industry regularly commiting and profiting from fraud, becoming a way of life for most bankers.

Faked pay slips, forged documents and cash-stuffed envelopes used as bribes to secure loans are just some of the examples of dodgy practices exposed so far by the banking royal commission.

The commission also heard requests to the auditor general to investigate the declaration of interest and conflict of interest policies of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

As with most developed nations, Australia is captured by people falling over to get rich quick on commission-driven schemes to dish out bigger mortgages to borrowers who can’t afford them.

Not to mention that secret shareholders all intertwine behind the scenes at Australia’s ‘Big Four’ banks, connecting to a larger international spider web of deception.

BIG TECHNOLOGY

The plethora of smart technologies and surveillance mechanisms being introduced across Australia also are being allowed under controversial connections that raise conflict of interest questions.

One recent example, includes the construction of Darwin’s new ‘smart city’, which is part of a national plan to transform Australia. The city is using technology directly inspired from China

This is interesting when you consider reports that reveal Darwin’s Lord Mayor, Kon Vatskalis, has a Chinese wife and regularly makes trips to the nation on ‘political excursions’.

Online, the power of Facebook and Google needs regulatory oversight to avoid corruption and abuse of market position, Australian Community Media’s new owner Antony Catalano says.

The ACCC also recently made 23 recommendations to curb the power of digital platforms, including oversight and ability to question algorithm behaviour and a code of conduct to help media companies deal with the power imbalance in business negotiations with the duopoly.

HEALTH SYSTEM

VACCINATION IN AUSTRALIA

Australia is home to a powerful network of individuals and business interests that continue to exploit society to their benefit through vaccination programs, including Lucy Turnbull and Rupert Murdoch.

Lucy Turnbull, the first female Lord Mayor of Sydney and wife of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, is a former chairwoman of cervical cancer vaccine developer, Prima BioMed.

Furthermore, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, founded by Rupert Murdoch’s mother, is heavily involved in vaccinology, including ‘discovery’, clinical trials and evaluation, safety and more.

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s Corporate Partners webpage states that News Corp and Foxtel support this institute — the same publications that initially launched the ‘No Jab, No Pay/Play’ campaign and boasted about their success on public websites.

Explore more in our detailed piece: Your guide to the dangers of vaccines in Australia

MEDICAL INDUSTRY

In many countries, including Australia, healthcare is among the most corrupt sectors, with many reports arguing it threatens the sustainability of healthcare systems worldwide.

The size, diversity and nature of the public health system creates corruption risks and vulnerabilities that are specific to the health sector, including include the theft of controlled drugs, covering up of clinical malpractice, fraudulent billing practices and bullying within the medical profession.

One example includes the Western Australia Corruption and Crime Commission’s report into bribery and corruption that recommended three former senior Western Australia health officials face criminal charges after its investigation uncovered one of the biggest corruption scandals in the state.

Furthermore, the independent statutory officer charged with oversight of South Australia’s health system will soon also be responsible for designing its strategy, taking the mental health policy and strategy from the Executive Director of Mental Health to the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist.

Spokesperson Stephen Wade said this raised significant issues of conflict of interest because the Chief Psychiatrist is responsible for independently assessing the functioning of the system.

BIG PHARMA

Further beneath the surface, an oligopoly of pharmaceutical giants continue to influence Australian politics, media and regulatory industries, to promote an agenda of consumption over healing, disinformation over informed discussion and manipulation over security of their products.

Prescription drug addiction continues to be the leading cause of drug-induced deaths across the country, information suppressed to ensure medical giants continue to profit off pain and addiction.

Researchers from the University of Sydney analysed four years of Australian pharmaceutical industry-sponsored educational events for health workers dedicated to three conditions prone to overdiagnosis and overtreatment — depression, overactive bladder and osteoporosis.

Published in BMJ Open, the research reveals that a few companies sponsored the majority of the events, with GPs often targeted and most events offered attendees dinner. The provision of meals at such events has been shown in previous studies to influence prescribing behaviour.

Big Pharma’s footprint in Australia is undeniable, and you can learn more about this in our feature video: Monopoly: The Influence of Big Pharma in Australia

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MASS MEDIA

The mass media influences collective perception of society in a variety of ways, including the extent to which the content is appealing, the degree to which information channels are accessible and desirable, and the amount of social conflict and diversity there is in a community.

Despite Australia being a large, industrialized nation, consolidation of media control and programming is larger in this country than many other developed nations, according to reports.

Australia has ranked 30th on a world ‘Press Freedom Index Report’, falling behind countries such as Norway, Estonia, Cape Verde, Denmark, Japan and many more.

News Corp Australia currently owns Sky News Australia, news.com.au, Fox Sports, Foxtel, The Daily Telegraph, The Australian, The Sunday Telegraph, Herald Sun, The Courier-Mail, The Sunday Mail, The Gold Coast Bulletin, The Mercury, and the Brisbane Broncos.

Nine Corp/Fairfax Media currently operates a number of major newspapers in Australia, including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian Financial Review, The Canberra Times, The Sun-Herald, Stock And Land and The Land.

Former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, called this stranglehold on information across Australia a ‘cancer on democracy’, citing specifically Rupert Murdoch’s continued influence in the industry.

FINAL WORDS

Corruption and conflicts of interest stories have a disproportionate impact on the poor and most vulnerable in Australian society, while also increasing costs and reducing access to services, including health, education and justice.

It erodes trust in the nation and undermines the social contract. This is cause for concern, but particularly in contexts of health and politics, as corruption fuels and perpetuates the inequalities and discontent that lead to dehumanization.

The fight against corruption is against the monopoly of the industrialised countries.

Civil society can help by denouncing corruption and putting pressure on the government, eliminate the interests of the politico-administrative apparatus and the ignorance of the victims, while removing a culture of fear nurtured by those who benefit from corruption.

To erode this problem in Australian society, citizens must help diagnose corruption areas and push for further anti-corruption, transparency and accountability approaches to be deployed in response.


Thank you to Full Member ChrisAtty for the feature pitch!

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One Comment on “Rotten Eggs: Corruption in Australia”

  1. Sw
    October 21, 2019 at 19:58 #

    Very obvious corruption also to a lot of us. How can we make a difference!? We need to unite

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