Keeping Them Honest: The case for a genuine national integrity commission and other vital democratic reforms
Scribe, $32.99 pb, 271 pp
One of the most important pieces of public interest journalism in recent times, and one with direct relevance to Australia, was written from a prison camp east of Moscow in 2021 by Russia’s de facto opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, incarcerated by the Putin government after its failed assassination attempt on him (Guardian, 20 August 2021). During his imprisonment, Navalny had identified a pattern in the memoirs of world leaders. Integrity was never mentioned in their accounts of ‘big agenda’ policy successes, only failures. The argument that pervasive corruption in the government of Afghanistan explained the failure of Western intervention there is one example. Navalny said the pattern invited an obvious question. If ‘corruption is preventing us from finding solutions to the problems of the “big agenda”’, he asked, ‘has the time perhaps come to raise it to a priority on that agenda?’ This question is especially pertinent, he argued, because corruption is no longer an internal issue but rather the ‘universal, ideology-free basis for the flourishing of a new Authoritarian International’ that is a root cause of global problems facing the west. The success of energy oligarchs from several countries, including Australia, in frustrating international efforts to arrest global warming is a case in point. There are many more.