The Ethical Standards of Politicians
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If opinion polls are to be believed, politicians in Australia barely rate above car salesmen and real estate agents for their honesty and integrity. Should we be appalled by this lack of public confidence in the integrity of our members of parliament? Should we be concerned with the viability of our parliamentary system of government? Are we endangering our prosperity by failing to address this betrayal of our public trust? The media at times arouse such anxieties, despite their own integrity rating being little better than that for politicians. A measured response to these concerns is that a good dose of public scepticism of politicians is perfectly natural, even in a democracy, given the political nature of their office. The vast majority of politicians are essentially honest men and women with a commitment to public service. Nonetheless, instances of misconduct by a few, whether this be political abuse of travel entitlements, the misuse of parliamentary privilege, conflicts of interest, or the acceptance of post-ministerial consultancies, compound this inherent public distrust of politicians. So the integrity of politicians comes under fire from two directions: their personal as well as their political integrity. Consequently, an effort is needed to reinforce both these forms of integrity. This chapter explores the development and effectiveness of those efforts in Australia. © Copyright 2007 Federation Press
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