MEDIA RELEASE: Use of ‘extraordinary powers’ shows secrecy thrives in times of crises

16 August 2022

The news that former Prime Minister Scott Morrison was sworn in as minister to several portfolios is extraordinary and raises serious red flags for our democracy.

Mr Morrison stated this morning that he was required to take ‘extraordinary measures’ during the pandemic. The use of ‘extraordinary powers’ with little transparency or accountability is what Transparency International Australia warned about during the pandemic.

The key lesson from Transparency International’s landmark global Corruption Perceptions Index report in 2020 was that strong democratic governance is essential to managing an equitable and effective COVID-19 response.

That research found a correlation between levels of perceived public sector corruption and democratic governance – countries with higher levels of corruption tended to be the worst perpetrators of rule of law and democratic breaches while managing the covid-19 crisis.

Australia’s score on the Corruption Perceptions Index has been trending steadily downwards this past decade – reaching its lowest level on record in this year’s report, scoring just 73 points on the 100-point scale.

This scandal illustrates why we need greater transparency and accountability across our system of government.

Transparency International Australia CEO, Clancy Moore made the following comments:

“Corruption thrives in a time of crisis. TIA repeatedly urged government decision-makers at the time to be transparent and accountable to mitigate these heightened corruption risks.”

“We need to close the loopholes that lead to democratic breaches, conflicts of interest and grey areas of corruption.”

“The public has a right to know who is ultimately responsible for the decisions made in these portfolios, and who we hold to account.”

“It appears now that we were also a country where the pandemic emergency was used as an excuse to breach democratic norms.”