Australians are losing faith in politicians, politics and even democracy itself — and is it any wonder? Another day, another political scandal. Today it’s One Nation caught apparently soliciting donations from the American gun lobby. What will it be tomorrow?
Not only do we not trust politicians to “do the right thing,” but 85 per cent of Australians think at least some federal politicians are corrupt. Whether MPs deserve this cynicism and suspicion is almost beside the point; they need to act to win back the trust of the people. And not just for the sake of their jobs: over time, a widespread loss of trust in political institutions can undermine representative democracy itself.
While there are many causes of this decline in trust, one important factor is a growing sense that people in government look after their own interests, or those of powerful groups, rather than the public interest. Public cynicism is fed when parliamentarians abuse their entitlements, accept lobbying roles after they leave politics, or receive benefits from groups seeking to influence policy.