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Media, unions, politicians seen as corrupt

The media, trade unions and political parties are perceived to be the most ''corrupt'' institutions in Australia, according to a survey from the Australian National University.

The ANUpoll published on Monday also found that 43 per cent of Australians believe the level of corruption is increasing, despite evidence to the contrary.

Acts of bribery involving public officials in Australia are very low, the poll confirms.

The federal government was seen as corrupt by almost one in three people and only one in five believe that governments can usually be trusted to do the right thing. Australians' satisfaction with democracy is high by international standards but is lower this year than at any time since 1998. The researchers said the largest decreases in confidence have been in the federal government and political parties.

When the 2020 respondents were asked which institutions were most affected by corruption, the highest adverse score was given to the media, followed closely by trade unions, political parties and the federal government.

When asked what are the most important issues facing Australia, the respondents pointed to the economy and jobs first, followed by immigration.

However, almost a quarter listed better government as the most important or second most important issue facing the nation.

Professor Adam Graycar from the ANU Research School of Social Sciences said the poll shed new light on public opinion on a major topic that shapes Australia's confidence in policy development.

''We're in the business as much as possible of informing policy debate,'' he said.

''Confidence in our political institutions and our social institutions underpins our democracy.

''In this survey there is concern about the quality of government although satisfaction about democracy is very high.

''The institutions perceived to be the least corrupt were the armed forces, the police and the public service.''

Mr Graycar said the survey was important because data on corruption was difficult to obtain.

''While there are perceptions that corruption has increased, the actual experience of people taking bribes is absolutely negligible, a fraction of 1 per cent,'' he said.

The survey did not ask respondents for a definition of corrupt as applied to the media.

''Egregious cases of corruption do get a run in the [news] media,'' Mr Graycar said. ''Twice as many people thought the media was corrupt as thought the media was not corrupt.

''Most older people, who think corruption is increasing, think the media is not nearly as corrupt as younger people do.

''This has some really interesting long-term implications for the future of the media.

''The media is likely to be regarded with low credibility by younger people.

''The implications are important because of the important role the media has in transparency and keeping issues alive before the public and exposing things that are wrong.''

Dr Juliet Pietsch from the ANU School of Politics and International Relations said satisfaction with democracy in Australia had fallen from 86 per cent in the late 1990s to 71 per cent now.

''Only 18 per cent of the Australian population has confidence in political parties,'' she said.

''People are concerned that politicians are just looking out for themselves.''

She said the drop in confidence towards political parties was related to the confrontational style that has emerged in state and federal parliaments.

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