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  • Rikki Lambert

Australia slides in corruption rankings as report outs influence of lobbyists

Shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus says Labor will establish an anti-corruption commission

A Human Rights Law Reform report says Australia's fossil fuel, gambling and tobacco industries are distorting democratic processes to win political outcomes. The report comes as the federal opposition lamented Australia's slide down a global anti-corruption index.

Political influence that would be considered corrupt and illegal overseas is "business as usual" in Australia, a new report claims.

Meanwhile, the federal opposition say Australia slid to its lowest level on record in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index.

The Human Rights Law Centre's report 'Selling Out: How powerful industries corrupt our democracy', accuses the fossil fuels, tobacco and gambling industries of using their wealth to infiltrate Australia's democracy.

The HRLC report calls for vast reforms, including parliament passing spending caps for candidates, parties and campaigners.

It also recommends professional lobbyists should be required to disclose meetings with politicians and advisers, ministers should publish their diaries and that a strong federal integrity commission with broad jurisdiction be implemented.

HRLC senior lawyer Alice Drury said big industries were "distorting democratic processes to win political outcomes":

"Australians support reforms to make our communities less addicted and our environment healthier, but the fossil fuels, tobacco and gambling industries are building political power to block sensible regulation," she said.
"It doesn't have to be this way. There are solutions that our parliament could pass tomorrow to make our democracy stronger, and ensure our elected representatives listen to us, the people."

In noting "the more harm an industry causes, the more political power it is likely to have", the report says community wishes such as decreasing the number of poker machines and limiting smoking are being ignored.

The Australian Electoral Commission will publish the latest figures on donations and political spending on its transparency register on February 1.

Labor says the ninth year of a federal Liberal government coincided with Australia's largest-ever annual fall on the Transparency International index, plummeting another four points to 18th place.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said:

"Under Labor, Australia had a proud record of being one of the world’s most open, transparent and least corrupt nations. This status made Australia a very attractive place to do business, attracting vital foreign investment in an increasingly competitive global market.
But that record has been trashed by nine years of Liberal rorts, secrecy and corruption."

Labor has committed to establishing a National Anti-Corruption Commission.


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