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Political corruption, accountability and the media : a study of motives and justifications

thesis
posted on 2023-05-27, 00:50 authored by Tanner, SJ
This thesis is about political corruption. Specifically it is concerned with two issues: (1) the way in which people alleged to have committed a corrupt act seek to justify their actions; and (2) how the media report the process of allegation and justification which invariably occurs when such an issue becomes public. In short the thesis is about accountability processes as they apply in Australia to elected public officials, particularly political leaders. The thesis uses a single case study - the so-called Metherell affair in New South Wales - to argue that public figures will invariably struggle to justify conduct which has been labelled corrupt. The Metherell affair represents an important case study because it illustrates how behaviour can be variously interpreted by different groups and individuals. Conduct which is acceptable to some people, for example one's political supporters, may not be acceptable to one's political opponents. As such, individuals charged with political corruption will seek to apply a situational morality when attempting to justify such conduct. That task becomes even more difficult when the individual is asked to justify his or her conduct in a separate arena where different standards can be applied - in this case the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) which is governed by its own legislation which includes a particular formal legal definition of corrupt conduct. Likewise, the case study provides an important insight into the media's treatment of political corruption. Looking at the treatment of this issue in four newspapers over four and a half months, the thesis shows how the media was able to both inform and entertain the reading public whilst acting fairly. The study shows that whilst the media was critical of the Premier for sanctioning the appointment which led to the Metherell affair, it did not consider him corrupt as the term is popularly understood. In this sense it played an important role in highlighting the differences between formal-legal definitions of corruption (as applied by quasi-legal bodies like the ICAC) and popular definitions which draw on a range of more subjective considerations.

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Copyright 1999 the author-The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s)

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