Australia appears to be failing in its efforts to crack down on bribery, according to the latest survey conducted by Transparency International, a non-governmental organization based in Germany.
The group said developed countries - including Australia - appeared to be lagging in their efforts to combat corruption in the public sector. It pointed to an inadequate regulation of foreign political donations in Australia, conflicts of interest in planning approvals, revolving doors and improper industry lobbying in large-scale mining projects.
While Australia's ranking is unchanged - it remains ranked 13th out of 180 countries - its corruption score has slipped eight points since the index started in its current form in 2012.
Concern about Australia's ranking comes as debate continues about the need for a nationwide anti-corruption body similar to the Independent Commission Against Corruption in the state of New South Wales. It was set up in 1989 and has scored many notable victories, including the jailing of corrupt state politicians.
Professor A.J. Brown, who leads a project called “Strengthening Australia's National Integrity System” for Transparency International, says much more work needs to be done.
“We do not have a federal anti-corruption body amongst other things, so it is also about the fact that our track record in terms of government commitment to controlling foreign bribery or money laundering and some of the things that the private sector is also involved in internationally is not that strong. We are moving but we have been moving very slow and very late, and not very comprehensively,” Brown said.
This year, New Zealand and Denmark were ranked highest in the Transparency International survey, the U.S. is ranked 16th, while South Sudan and Somalia were the lowest-ranked nations. The best performing region was Western Europe, while the most corrupt regions were Sub-Saharan Africa, followed by Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The survey found that more than 6 billion people live in countries that are corrupt. Transparency International said most countries failed to protect the independence of the media, which plays a crucial role in preventing corruption.