While there are many adjectives we often use when describing our Federal pollies here at The Australian Tribune, ‘trustworthy’ doesn’t tend to be one of them.
And it turns out, most of Australia is on our side when it comes to having faith in today’s government.
According to the Grattan Institute’s Commonwealth Orange Book report, trust in government is at a 50-year low.
75% of Aussies are sceptical
According to AAP, the report shows that only a quarter of Australians — the lowest amount since this survey began in 1969 — believe ‘people in government can be trusted to do the right thing’.
The report also claims that, unlike the state government who have made progress in fighting corruption, our federal government has done ‘very little to improve the integrity of its processes in more than a decade’.
Such a lack of trust can lead to the undermining of democracy, which can make it harder to bring in reform. And with an election just around the corner, it doesn’t really set up a warm welcome for the next federal term.
Aussie’s key concern for pollies
At the top of the list of what grinds voters’ gears is the way governments seem to be looking after their own — of powerful groups’ — interests, rather than the good of the public.
And fixing the way political parties are funded could address this issue. At the 2016 election, only 32% of political party funding came from the public. Meanwhile, disclosed private funding accounted for 26%, with the remaining 42% coming from undisclosed sources.
‘A high share of donations came from businesses in industries with the most to gain or lose from government decisions,’ the report said.
Of course, good luck finding an alternative funding system that everyone agrees with.
In fact, the report shows that trust has also wavered by the perception that pollies receive personal gifts and benefits, such as corporate funded travel and hospitality. Mind you, these benefits aren’t exclusive to parliament.
Nevertheless, undeniable weaknesses in systems investigating corruption and misconduct in the public sector are also making Aussies weary of trusting those in charge.
For instance, half the federal public sector is outside the jurisdiction of the Australian Public Service Commission, and no agency is responsible for investigating the conduct of politicians unless a report is made to the Australian Federal Police.
Frankly, that doesn’t seem adequate.
Can they win back voters’ trust?
So, can our pollies convince us of their honour? Well, according to the report, ‘There is no clear point of contact for members of the public or whistleblowers to report corruption or misconduct’.
That said, the report provided a list of potential solutions to the trust issue. These included a code of conduct for all parliamentarians, the publication of ministerial diaries, and even a commonwealth integrity commission — to make them as exposed as the Big Four, I suppose.
As for concerns around money, the report suggests a cap on election advertising spending and a $5,000 threshold for real-time donation disclosure.
The problem though, is how can we trust that the government will follow through on any of these suggestions?
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