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What can be done about political trust? The 2016 federal election inquiry

Marian Sawer writes in John Menadue’s Pearls and Irritations blog (20.1.17) on her analysis of the Australian Election Study’s ‘Trends in Australian Political Opinion’ report, compiled by ANU’s Professor Ian McAllister.

‘The major political parties largely control the process of electoral reform and judge any proposal by its possible partisan effects. Considerations of partisan advantage almost always take precedence over the restoration of public trust in the political system.

‘According to the 2016 Australian Election Study, trust in the Australian government is at its lowest point since records began in the 1960s. The current parliamentary inquiry into the conduct of the 2016 federal election might seem an ideal place to look for ways to boost confidence.

‘Political finance is one of the areas that contributes most to public perception that government is run largely in the interests of the big end of town. And indeed the terms of reference of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) inquiry include the current political donations regime, as well as the more specific question of foreign donations, on which a report is due by 1 March. 

‘The expenses scandal in January that led to Minister Sussan Ley’s resignation included use of parliamentary allowances to attend New Year’s Eve parties held by a Gold Coast businesswoman and party donor Sarina Russo. What was particularly eye-catching was that Russo was both a generous political donor and the recipient of lucrative government contracts to provide employment services.’

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