Transparency International Australia chairman Anthony Whealy wants bribes to foreign officials to be classed as a crime. Photo: Peter RaeAustralia has become “complacent” about corruption and the failure of successive federal governments to stamp out foreign bribery has resulted in the country plummeting in a global corruption index, a former judge who presided over NSW corruption inquiries has warned.
Anti-corruption organisation Transparency International released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index on Wednesday, which showed Australia had slid in the rankings for the third consecutive year.
It now sits at number 13 in the index of 168 countries, behind New Zealand in fourth place and the United Kingdom in 10th spot, but ahead of the United States (16) and Japan (18).
“It’s not a good look for Australia,” said Anthony Whealy, QC, the new chairman of Transparency International Australia and a former Supreme Court judge.
Mr Whealy, who presided over an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry involving former NSW Labor ministers in late 2013, said successive federal governments had been “complacent in addressing corruption” and urgent laws were required, particularly to crack down on foreign bribery.
He said there was a perception in the business community that “Australia more or less has to go along with paying bribes or large sums of money in other countries to get contracts for business purposes”.
“That complacency in the business world is really brought about by complacency at government level, where it has the capacity to introduce legislation, and indeed it’s in the course of doing it now,” Mr Whealy said.
A Senate economics references committee inquiry into foreign bribery is expected to release its report by July 1.
Mr Whealy said new laws were needed to make it a criminal offence to pay bribes to foreign governments to get contracts, as well as laws requiring companies to keep a record of all payments made.
Denmark, Finland and Sweden, which appear regularly among the “cleanest” countries, took out the top three spots in the 2015 index. North Korea and Somalia tied for the last spot.
The index does not measure actual corruption, but is a reflection of international perceptions drawn from 12 different sources including the New York-based Political Risk Services group and a survey of business executives conducted by the non-profit World Economic Forum in Geneva.
Australia has only appeared outside the top 10 on two other occasions – last year and in 1998.
Countries in the index are given a score from one (“very corrupt”) to 100 (“very clean”). Australia scored 79 points in the 2015 CPI, down from 80 points in 2014 and 81 in 2013.
View the full Corruption Perceptions Index for 2015.
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