Transparency International â€“ the NGO that studies and combats corruption around the world â€“ says Australia is one of the most corruption-free countries on Earth.
But where well-funded â€œbroad-basedâ€ Independent Commissions Against Corruption exist, they manage to find things.
Embarrassing, stupid things usually. Politically damaging. Petty crap.
Technical breaches of this and that but not corruption in the way we normally understand it. The number of people willing to pay or receive bribes for decisions is miniscule. Hence the international recognition of how clean our governments are.
The way ICACs, including the WA Corruption and Crime Commission work is that they justify their huge budgets by generating the biggest number of headlines embarrassing the prominent as possible. And in so doing they create a false impression that the public service and politics is riddled with wrongdoing and corruption.
And it appears that in the first year of the Baillieu government such a body will be created. Confirmed at the same press conference Baillieu pledged no spin (while VEXNEWS knows for certain that media advisers/spinners are being identified for hiring as we write).
This ICAC will be headed by someone the government presumably trusts.
But staffed by the kinds of people who think they should work at an ICAC. Naturally those applying are self-selecting. Thereâ€™ll be $40 million allocated to hiring them. Thatâ€™s a lot of ex-cops, grumpy public servants and accountants who couldnâ€™t get hired by KPMG.
In our observation the people who end up at these bodies are self-righteous, idealistic and thuggish people who believe they are on a mission from the deity of their choice. They havenâ€™t met a politician they didnâ€™t think was secretly crooked.
We saw it in the conduct of the Victorian Ombudsman where a man who can only be described as a junkyard dog â€“ Lachlan McCulloch â€“ an embittered ex-Drug Squad cop who had to leave VicPol â€“ pursued some Brimbank councillors as if they were Al Capone. They did nothing wrong in reality, despite a scathing report authored by McCullochâ€™s colleagues, and treatment by The Age so contemptible that on that day we resolved to persist in this kind of publishing until the day that foul journal shuts its doors. We will speak truth to their power til we pop the champagne cork on the Media House lawn as The Age masthead comes down. It might not be far away. None of the Brimbank slagged were ever charged with any offence of any kind. But the resulting stink was enough to cost good people their jobs and hurt their reputations.
The Ombudsmanâ€™s misconduct and thuggishness was tempered by laws that â€“ at least during the investigation â€“ restricted reporting on its unsubstantiated claims. It was restricted from investigating many targets whose headline-generating potential is vast like politicians.
The ICAC Baillieu has promised will have no such limits. It will not follow the recommendations of the independent Proust inquiry into the right kind of structure to make it work with as little destruction as possible.
There will be no time â€“ it seems â€“ for another review by someone appropriate for a Liberal government.
Instead Baillieu will rush to introduce a body that will â€“ mark our words â€“ provide endless comfort to his political enemies in the Opposition, the media and elsewhere.
He might fantasise that it will only hunt the Opposition but it wonâ€™t. Their area of responsibility is now restricted to 20 staff over in the European side of Spring Street. ICAC will inevitably focus on the government.
Thatâ€™s why the good Liberal PM John Howard didnâ€™t introduce a federal one.
Thatâ€™s why Baillieu should not have promised it in the first place. Creating an ICAC is like playing Russian Roulette with the governmentâ€™s future.
There wasnâ€™t a vote in it.
But the same people who were forever convinced the last Liberal government was corrupt to its core (in generally unspecified or at least far-fetched ways) will have endless material to satisfy their prejudice.
Baillieu is of course much like the smug puritanical pain John Cain than the rollicking, can-do fixer Jeff Kennett. But he is just one man in a big government.
And he canâ€™t control them all.
He certainly wonâ€™t be able to completely control the gathering swarm of waspy lobbyists and spivs descending on the new government.
And he wonâ€™t be able to change the inevitable information flow coming from a whole bureaucracy that is institutionally biased against a conservative government, even one headed by someone called â€œRed Tedâ€.
Baillieu would have been well within his rights to ensure a lengthy period of study to come up with the right kind of ICAC for Victoria and implement it no earlier than Year Three of his administration in time for his re-election.
His decision not to delay itÂ so will cost the rich man â€“ and a random number of his colleagues – plenty. He has sown the seeds of his political destruction and he hasnâ€™t even been sworn in yet.
Former Health Minister and Labor Lefty Daniel Andrews â€“ if he becomes Labor leader â€“ will have much to think about this Christmas and while most people think he has a very big job ahead of him the truth is Ted Baillieu has just handed him a very big gift.