June 13, 2011 | Graham

Australia has world’s best practice in government accountability

Australia has placed fourth in the world for open government according to the World Justice Project, which compares 66 leading countries on a variety of political indicators.

We don’t do so well on other indicators, but our result is still very healthy – if you put a lot of store in these sorts of exercises.

According to the report, Australia scores quite well in most dimensions of the rule of law. The country ranks fourth globally in the area of government accountability, reflecting a well-functioning system of checks and balances and institutions that effectively prevent, investigate, and punish instances of misconduct. Australia ranks among the top ten globally in six of the eight categories measured by the Index. The civil courts are efficient and independent, although access to translators and affordable legal counsel remains limited, particularly for disadvantaged groups. In this area, Australia scores lower than almost all high-income countries. Another area of concern is discrimination. While the country ranks among the best in the world in protecting most fundamental rights, it lags behind in guaranteeing equal treatment and non-discrimination, especially for immigrants and ethnic minorities. In this area, Australia ranks last among all high-income countries and ranks 40th globally

I’m a supporter of a Bill of Rights, but given that all of the countries we are competing against has one, do they in reality achieve much?

Posted by Graham at 4:42 am | Comments (3) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. That does not say much for the rest of the world if the Gillard Govt is held up a prime example of accountability.

    Comment by Ross — June 13, 2011 @ 11:36 pm

  2. I think it is the whole system Ross, not the government temporarily in power at the federal level. But even so, the institutional arrangements in Australia mean that no government, Liberal or Labor, no matter how bad, can really do too much wrong from an accountability point of view.

    Comment by Graham — June 17, 2011 @ 2:11 am

  3. A Bill of Rights alone will not ensure accountability, equality, or any other social value. It’s how they’re implemented and upheld, how they’re applied in practice.

    The USSR had a bunch of rights in its Constitution that, in practice, amounted to very little.

    What a binding statement of rights (and duties?) *can* do, is set the terms of engagement for framing and the application of social structures and processes. Having one may not revolutionise the lives of many, but that alone is no reason not to have one.

    Too often, discussions of formal legal rules gets lost in the detail of how they are applied in practice – or vice versa. One would hope that we don’t ‘need’ a Bill of Rights to have a just society. But, again, since we’re not coming out of a revolution or other significant social distress, that would not be the purpose of such a statement.

    A Bill of Rights offers a statement of key values against which to frame future dialogue and future policy- and law-making. Unlike most of our peer nations, Australia has had relatively little open discussion or debate regarding social values and their place in our civics.

    Having a functioning framework of governmental accountability is perhaps a legacy of the independence of our legal and accounting fraternities as it is to any desire by politicians to be held to account. The latter tend to prefer to be *seen* to be doing right, as that is a key factor in their re-electability. Nevertheless, we have had some forthright and upstanding parliamentarians through the years – even if we’ve also had some more colourful ones.

    At the end of the day, much of the accountability in *our* system stems as much from fiscal propriety as any larger social or civic conscience. That, and the regular wresting between State and Federal politics, and between departments and their ministers: ‘Keeping the Bastards Honest’ through a need to negotiate and remain on working terms with one another.

    Finally: comparative studies may well suggest we’re doing well against our ‘peers’, but unless that is also assessed against some external or larger norms, it says very little beyond ‘we’re less shit’ than some of the other guys.

    Comment by Steven — June 22, 2011 @ 6:32 am

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