We are a deeply cynical lot

The 2013 Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer has been released – and its findings suggest we are a deeply cynical and alienated lot.

The Barometer measures perceptions of corruption in countries; whether people have had to pay bribes or not; and which institutions are considered corrupt. There is a site which allows you to look at Australia, compare it with other countries and alternatively weep or celebrate. The details are here: http://www.transparency.org/gcb2013/country/?country=australia

59% of the Australians surveyed believe that our political parties are either corrupt or extremely corrupt although this is better than it could be when compared with 76% of Americans believing that of their political parties and 66% in the United Kingdom. In Australia the only other institution which ranks as high as our political parties is the media which 58% of us believe is corrupt or extremely corrupt.

The least distrusted of the institutions surveyed was education which only 19% of those surveyed thought was corrupt or extremely corrupt. Medical practitioners and health services came in just behind at 20%.  Religion and business were neck and neck behind the media and political parties with 44% believing religious institutions were corrupt or extremely corrupt and 47% thinking the same of business. Other scores were: military 25%, NGOs 23%, the judiciary 28% and police 33%.

So what does it all mean? The blog is not sure, particularly when 5% report that they or their family has paid a bribe to the judiciary – a figure which is unbelievable in Australia unless popular definitions of the judiciary are broader than the blog’s. Most of the other confessions of bribes to institutions are around the 1% mark which probably means almost none. Encouragingly 74% say that ordinary people can make a difference against corruption which means that only a quarter think they can’t. Taking all it into account two conclusions may be possible: Australians are deeply alienated from their institutions but ordinary people haven’t given up hope – except perhaps on political parties and the media.

Declaration of interest: The blog is a Transparency International Australia member.