In Australia, corruption spends public funds in pursuit of power, rewards favour, and strips support from worthy programs. It silences journalists and those charged with upholding standards of integrity by depriving them of funding. Grift and stacking are commonplace as those chasing influence infiltrate the structures of power. Corruption rewards loyalty through appointments to office and by preferencing those within the favoured network ahead of others of equal or greater talent. It conceals itself through unfit-for-purpose access to information laws and processes, vague budget commitments, the assertion of unchecked executive discretion, a quick media cycle and overburdened parliamentary committees. It undermines trust in government at a time when trust is vital to keeping us safe. Corruption allows mistrust to fester, offers nourishment to conspiracy theories, and engenders civil unrest. In Easy Lies & Influence, Fiona McLeod, a practising Senior Counsel and Chair of the Accountability Round Table, tells us what corruption can do, and why it’s imperative that we address it. After all, if citizens can’t see a way of bolstering the pillars of democracy—trust, truth, integrity and accountability—what chance is there of restoring decency and the prioritisation of community interests in public office?
Fiona McLeod practises as a Senior Counsel and is recognised as a leader of the profession for having helmed the peak national legal bodies, including the Law Council of Australia. She is the Chair of the Accountability Round Table, a body committed to improving integrity in public office, and is a former chair of Transparency International Australia. Fiona was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in the 2020 Australia Day Honours for ‘distinguished service to the law, and to the legal profession, at the national and international level, and to women lawyers’. She was appointed to the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2014 and is an Ambassador for the Honour Roll. She was an inaugural recipient of the Commonwealth Anti-Slavery Award and has received numerous other professional awards for her work supporting diversity and inclusion, human rights, and victims of trafficking and exploitation.