Bad government 1

I have decided to comment every week or so on politics, mostly re the political play here in Australia. That I’ve decided to title the pieces bad government makes obvious my view of Australian government (at all three levels, but my primary concern will be federal). The fact that I have decided to number them speaks to my view of how entrenched the problems are and to just how soon we are likely to see a less dirty country. Of course the rest of world will no doubt intrude but it’s mainly Oz I’m looking at.

King Jie of Xia holding a Ji polearm, representing oppression, and sitting on two ladies, symbolizing his abuse of power.
User:Shibo77, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Crikey news service has been publishing a series called The Dirty Country. It’s well worth reading the whole series but what prompted this post was their latest article, entitled ‘We must learn to see the corruption that pervades Australian public life, and restructure it‘.

The opening sentence is interesting: ‘Australians, and especially our governing class, have normalised soft corruption…’. If all Australians are complicit (though not the principal normalisers of corruption) in this corruption it makes you wonder how to deal with a problem that is both normalised and generally accepted – or is that merely tolerated. Three key questions arise:

  1. Is the corruption part of the national character?
  2. If it is – what can one do to change that national character?
  3. If we are not intrinsically corrupt but just tolerant of systemic corruption then how do we fix our complacency vis a vis systemic corruption

If of course corruption and/or acceptance of corruption is part of the makeup of ‘ordinary Australians’ – and thus our politicians simply replicate our nature – then the problem is indeed deep seated. And much more difficult to resolve (if fixing it is even contemplated). If, however, the corruption is not part of our Australian human nature, and is more a case of a tolerance for or apathy regarding corruption (tolerated so long as it doesn’t affect you personally) then we need to do something about this national apathy. This is the position I hold to; that most people are not directly corrupt; the issue is that we are complicit in corruption because we do not speak up or do anything significant about it.

This is Crikey’s journalist’s take on the matter; bold italicised highlighting mine:

Australians, and especially our governing class, have normalised soft corruption. They literally no longer see a great deal of it because it has been accepted as a standard part of Australian political life.

If voters dislike pork-barrelling and understand the danger of property developers buying favourable planning decisions, they look past political donations and readily tolerate former politicians and public servants working for the industries they once regulated and funded.

Politicians are much worse: they collaborate to preserve secrecy and embrace in government the soft corruption they decried in opposition. Only last September, the Coalition and Labor combined to pass laws that would prevent state political donation requirements — which provide for greater transparency and prevent property developer donations — from affecting federal donation rules, ensuring state laws can be circumvented.

 MAR 26, 2021

Keane argues that we need to retrain ourselves to see and do something about corruption. Training politicians is difficult because any attempt to fix the problems with independent corruption watchdogs or greater transparency threatens their positions and power. So using anti-corruption bodies and agitating for greater transparency won’t work, Keane argues. We need to ‘address the structural incentives for corruption‘. And Keane goes on to outline a number of those structural changes required; it’s a good list and series of explanations that I won’t cover here.

Do I agree? I think so but need to give it much more time and thought than sitting a& typing a post will give me.

I obviously need to read another of Keane’s articles on this DIRTY COUNTRY: ‘How to end corruption? First break down the code of silence allowing it to thrive‘.

The Dance of Death (1493) by Michael Wolgemut, from the Nuremberg Chronicle of Hartmann Schedel. For some reason this image continually recurs to me when I write about our current times. Perhaps it is that I see so many echoes of he European 14th century in our now.

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