Monday, January 3, 2011

What corruption?

When I immigrated to Australia, it appeared to me then that corruption is practically non-existent in Australia. Even when ridiculously expensive government projects actually smell of corruption, there is no investigation into it. Typically it goes like this: the government (be it state or federal) proposes a major project or a privatization deal. The people (to the credit of free press in Australia) voice their disapproval. The government releases some dubious survey result or cherry-picked studies and opinions to support the proposal. Then the proposal is steamrolled through parliament. Everything is above aboard, right? I am not so sure now.

The NSW electricity sell-off is a good example of the struggle to get the government to come clean on how the electricity privatization could have been so blatantly carried out against widespread public indignation. Having grown in a corruption-rife country, my observation is that corruption starts small and is usually done discretely at first. Those on the take will get more and more greedy, until they no longer care to be discrete anymore. Soon, it reaches a point where they think they are powerful or smart enough to be immune to prosecution.

Tony Abbott must be credited to pursing the NSW electricity sell-off enquiry. In the same way, Ted Baillieu in Victoria must be credited to initiating inquiry into the Myki, the smart meter, and the desalination plant projects. These are all multi-billion dollar financial commitments that are ridiculously expensive and do not have popular support, unless you believe government spins. In many oppressed regimes, people are afraid to fight corruption for fear of victimization. In Australia, people probably believe that corruption is a disease of Third World countries only.

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