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Australia's Levels of Corruption Continue to Worsen

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

According to Transparency International's (TI's) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Australia's levels of corruption have been increasing since 2012. Australia is now the 18th least corrupt country in the world according to the index, compared to 7th in 2012.

A red overlayed outline of Australia with 'CORRUPTION' as text foregrounded.

The latest report has Australia in 18th place compared to all other countries evaluated within the index, scoring just 73 points on the 100-point scale. This is also the worst result Australia has received since TI introduced their new methodology in 2012.

Of 156 countries measured on the index, only nine countries saw their corruption score worsen by eight points or more since 2012. Australia therefore is in the same category as Syria, Yemen, Guatemala, Macedonia, Turkey, Bahrain, Hungary and Liberia. Of those in this list, only Australia, Turkey and Hungary are developed members within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - these are two OECD nations who have recently been reported to demonstrate authoritarian tendencies.

Between 2012 and 2022, Australia has fallen 12 points on the 100-point scale, with Australia's rank on the global index compared to other countries having dropped 11 places from 7th in the world in 2012. Interestingly, Australia fell from 11th least corrupt to 18th least corrupt, 7 rankings, in a single year between 2020 and 2021.

Examining Australia's neighbours, New Zealand is tied for 1st place (least corrupt in the world), alongside Denmark and Finland. Papua New Guinea, while only scoring 31 on the 100-point scale (and is the 124th least corrupt country in the world), has been steadily improving along the corruption index over the past decade.

Causes of Corruption in Australia

Last year's report provided some insight as to what issues were causing Australia's corruption score to fall:

“Australia faces several corruption challenges, including anonymous company ownership and money laundering. Following the FinCEN files, where thousands of leaked financial documents exposed a vast paper trail of money laundering across the globe, more than US$150 million were traced back to Australian banks. The country also shows severe deficiencies when it comes to corruption in international real estate. As a result of a 2006 law, properties can be bought and sold without due diligence and real estate agents, lawyers and accountants are not required to report suspicious activities. Australia currently doesn’t require individuals behind foreign companies, or beneficial owners, to disclose their identity when purchasing property.

Transparency International also highlighted real estate as a key factor of corruption for the Australian market as part of their "Doors Wide Open" report, noting that the lack of transparency in Australia's real estate data limits the potential to track criminal finances within the market itself:

"The limited availability of real estate data and of beneficial ownership data, in particular, means that we still know very little about who owns properties, and whether they have been purchased with dirty money. This continues to be the case in the four markets – Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. "

Alan Austin for Michael West Media also suggested potentially likely causes:

They include the “sports rorts” affair, the highly problematic sale of floodwater rights, international money laundering, pork barreling selected electorates, corrupt allocation of grant funds, allowing criminals to hide money in Australia’s property market, political fundraising, influence peddling, the East Timor electronic surveillance scandal and the outcomes of inquiries by state investigative commissions.


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