Australia’s worst-ever corruption score points to urgent need for national integrity commission

25 January 2022

Transparency International (TI)’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) report has put Australia in 18th place, scoring just 73 points on the 100-point scale.

This is the worst result Australia has ever received since Transparency International’s new methodology began in 2012.

Since 2012, Australia’s score has dropped 12 points, and our rank in the global index has fallen 11 places (from 7th place in 2012). Of all the OECD countries, Australia tied with Hungary in dropping the most points (12) over this period.

While Australia’s score has been sliding down for a decade, countries in our region, such as Papua New Guinea, have been trending up. New Zealand again comes in at equal first.

Australia CPI score and rank

‘Australia’s ranking on Transparency International’s global Corruption Perceptions Index has hit a record low,’ said Serena Lillywhite, CEO of Transparency International Australia.

‘The dramatic fall in Australia’s standing underscores the urgent need for the establishment of a national integrity commission with the full powers of a royal commission.

‘Transparency International Australia has been sounding the alarm on Australia’s deteriorating global corruption standing for years. The latest results point to systemic failings to tackle corruption, foreign bribery and strengthen political integrity.

‘We need to fix this as a matter of urgency.

‘As we head into another federal election, political integrity and the health of Australia’s democracy should be a priority for every political candidate, party, and voter.

‘Transparency International Australia has been calling for a national integrity commission for over a decade.

‘While we have been waiting for political action, we have seen the rise and rise of the Australian public’s demand for national reform against corruption.

‘In poll after poll, year after year, Australians have been stating loud and clear that they are concerned about the level of corruption and misconduct in Australian politics. Australians overwhelmingly want a strong national anti-corruption watchdog.

‘Our record low score from TI’s global research proves that we cannot wait any longer. There is unfinished business – the Federal Government committed to establish a Commonwealth Integrity Commission more than three years ago – we need to act decisively to tackle corruption and restore trust and confidence in government and our democratic institutions.’

The CPI and its global analysis

Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index is the leading global indicator of public sector corruption, providing an annual comparative snapshot of 180 countries and territories. The index for 2021 draws on 13 expert assessments and surveys of businesspeople.

The theme of this year’s report from Transparency International is corruption and human rights. More corrupt regimes tend to deliberately suppress the civil and political rights of their citizens, and when these rights are weak, people are less able to tackle corruption.

A decade of the CPI has revealed that, despite concerted efforts and many hard-won gains, two-thirds of countries have a serious corruption problem, with scores below 50. Since 2012, 25 countries have improved their score, but over the same period, 23 countries have dropped. For example, Papua New Guinea has continued to improve its score, and the passing of legislation in November 2020 to establish an Independent Commission Against Corruption, can arguably be attributed to that improvement.

‘We know that various forms of corruption exist in all countries, even those with good CPI scores. Many high-scoring, or relatively ‘corruption-free’, countries are safe havens for the world’s dirty money by allowing corrupt leaders to stash their cash there.’ Transparency International and Australian board member, Professor A. J. Brown of Griffith University, said.

‘Corruption is not a victimless crime. It disproportionately impacts marginalised communities, undermines human rights, and can damage the natural environment, such as when dodgy planning deals are done. In short, corruption threatens the health of our democracy.’ Said Serena Lillywhite.

‘Many of the anti-corruption successes in recent history have been due to the tireless, coordinated efforts of ordinary people, who have taken great personal risks to make change happen. Ensuring individuals, civil society and social movements have the right to speak up and hold power to account is vital to protecting the health of democracies worldwide.’