NOOSA - Papua New Guineans are not alone. More than half of Australians think corruption is commonplace amongst their politicians.
This has been revealed in an Australia Talks national survey commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in which 60,000 Australians were asked about their lives and what keeps them up at night.
In short, Australians don't trust their politicians. More than half (56%) agree with the proposition that ‘Australian politicians are often corrupt’.
Australians strongly believe that politicians should resign if they are caught lying, but they’re resigned to the probability when politicians do lie, they'll get away with it.
So about 90% of Australians are confident that "most politicians in Australia will lie if they feel the truth will hurt them politically".
The release of these figures should not make Papua New Guineans feel any better about their politicians, but it should make Australians feel that big changes are required in their national government.
The Liberal National coalition has obstinately resisted the formation of an independent commission to investigate official corruption, although other major parties are in favour.
This does not impress Australians, 98% of whom say politicians should resign if they take a bribe. A further 95% believe they should resign if they mislead parliament and 77% say they should reisgn if they use public funds for political ends, known as pork-barrelling.
Australians want their elected representatives to behave honestly but know that they won't.
In the 1970s and 1980s there were many cases where ministers who committed infringements resigned, mostly over matters that today would be considered trivial.
Back then, the code of ‘ministerial responsibility’ was taken seriously. One minister lost his job for suggesting electorate names to the chief electoral officer. Another resigned for not paying duty on a small colour television. And another for not declaring that he was importing a teddy bear.
According to the ABC, there have been 35 ministers resign in the last 10 years, which is a lot, but only eight were for unacceptable personal behaviour, conflicts of interest or breaches of the ministerial code.
The other 27 were ministers resigning to trigger a leadership spill or because they didn't want to serve under a new leader.
So far the Morrison government has lost three ministers: one for bad behaviour on an overseas trip; another for conflict of interest, and the third, Senator Matt Canavan, who resigned because he didn’t want to serve under a new leader.
But the most important failures of the Morrison government — the $1.8 billion ‘robodebt’ scandal, the death of 682 Australians from Covid-19 in residential aged care and the slipshod Covid vaccine rollout — have triggered no resignations.
Nor have allegations of rape against a senior minister and failures of various kinds by a number of other ministers.
No wonder more than half of the Australian people believe their politicians are corrupt.
It’s because they are.
It might be proposed that dislike of politicians might just be a form of Australians’ long tradition of suspicion of authority.
The truth is that faith in the political system has fluctuated over the years.
Every so often, the Australian Election Study operated by the Australian National University asks voters to rate their satisfaction with Australia's democracy.
At the 2019 election, satisfaction was at 59%, the lowest since the late 1970s, when satisfaction was 56% per cent, the all-time low.
By 2007, satisfaction peaked at 89% at the beginning of the Rudd prime ministership.
So how can people restore their faith in politicians?
An immediate solution would appear to be a federal anti-corruption commission, which is favoured by 88% of Australians.
But that 88% does not include the prime minister Morrison or the Liberal National coalition. They don’t want a bar of any agency that would credibly investigate their wrongdoings.