Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Set traps for rats in the ranks

By Chris Berg - posted Thursday, 6 March 2008

When Wollongong City Council was sacked this week, it gained the dubious honour of being the eighth council to be dismissed in NSW within the past five years. This is an embarrassing record for the tier of government that is supposed to be the closest to its constituents. The federal government in far-away Canberra has been sacked only once.

The Wollongong council scandal has everything: sex, bribery and an impersonation of a corruption watchdog officer. But, most of all, Wollongong council has inadvertently highlighted the deep problems with local government administration across the country. Compared with other levels of government, there is little accountability and scrutiny of local government. It is no wonder it often makes expensive mistakes and is susceptible to corruption.

Part of the fault lies in the sorts of people who are drawn to council office. Local government politics tends to attract those excited by the machinations and manipulations of political life but disinterested in public policy.


There is one good thing to be said for politicians motivated by ideological fervour: at least they want the best for their constituents.

Too many people stand for local government with little interest in responsible governing.

As Wollongong has been virtually a one-party city for the better part of a century, it is little more than a sandpit for Labor's factional warfare.

A main cause of the corruption in local government is the often cited problem of lack of transparency and accountability. Few media organisations are interested in the day to day goings-on of individual councils, at least until a corruption watchdog puts a councillor in front of a judge.

Free from the close scrutiny that federal and state governments are subject to, councils are free to follow their whims. It is perhaps indicative that some of the earliest casualties of the sub-prime crisis have been local government investment portfolios.

If the market had not so spectacularly imploded during the past few months, NSW's Wingecarribee Shire Council would never have been asked why it was investing in mortgages in Houston and Orlando.


One possible remedy for this sense that corruption is endemic in councils has been raised by the Queensland Local Government Association: politicians would be less likely to accept bribes and gifts from property developers if there were more extensive scrutiny of political donations.

This echoes Kevin Rudd's declaration yesterday that the federal Government plans to drastically limit campaign donations in the name of good government.

Limiting political donations creates its own problems, not least that doing so tends to favour incumbent politicians who are able to harness the full resources of their government.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

First published in The Australian on March 5, 2008.

 Institute of Public Affairs Advertisement


Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

16 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Chris Berg is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs and editor of the IPA Review.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Chris Berg

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 16 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Latest from Institute of Public Affairs
 No reality holiday from this population challenge
 For budgets only smaller is tougher
 Government subsidies to green groups must end
 Boot-strapping on a carbon tax
 West's history not complete without reference to Christianity

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy