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The Nature of Corruption: glorified, vilified and at the heart of our culture

Matthew Condon, P.M. Newton, Tara Moss, & Moya Sayer-Jones on The Nature of Corruption. Photo: Cath Piltz

Matthew Condon, P.M. Newton, Tara Moss, & Moya Sayer-Jones on The Nature of Corruption.
Photo: Cath Piltz

The boiling frog anecdote questions our ability and/or our willingness to react to, gradually occurring, significant changes. The belief is that a frog placed in boiling water will jump out, but a frog placed in cold water – which is slowly heated – will be cooked to death.

Novelist, journalist, and activist, Tara Moss believes that corruption is at the heart of our culture, and that we can change that. Moss says corruption is rewarded, and encourages us as a “society to question why we think celebrating corruption is acceptable”. She defines corruption as “the grabbing of power wherein one person wins, and many people lose out”.

P.M. Newton spent thirteen years as a detective in the police force, and is now a crime writer. She warns of the law unintended consequences, which is the fostering of laws that breed corruption. She spoke of her time as a drug enforcement agent, when large quantities of marijuana growing in State Forests were seized without any arrests made.

Newton explained how the police force focused on these busts – for statistical purposes – and how this has influenced the current hydroponic culture which has much more serious physical, mental, and financial repercussions than the previous culture of smoking milder  marijuana grown outdoors.

According to Newton, corruption is glorified. Corrupt characters, in fiction and reality, are often colourful, diligent, and glamorous.

“Corruption is cruel, nasty, and ugly,” asserts Newton.


Matthew Condon spoke of the cyclic nature of corruption and how many “good people are being destroyed by the corrupt few”. He said that the current misuse and abuse of power in Queensland has forced “corruption fighter” Tony Fitzgerald out of retirement.

The session’s chair, Moya Sayer-Jones, explored whether the word “corruption” is gendered, asking “is corruption masculine?”

“We have a history of portraying women as corrupters,” said Moss. “All the way back to the story of Adam and Eve.”

This raises issues of historical construction of gender norm, gender expectations, and the varying media portrayal of male and female offenders.

According to Moss, “quantifiable physical harm is disproportionately perpetrated by men”, and her book Fetish explores how women are on the side of inequity.

Condon says he fears for future misconduct of power as amendments to the Crime and Misconduct Act have been passed in Queensland.

These amendments enable inappropriate political conduct to continue on without investigation. He described the mechanics currently being put in place by the Queensland Government as taking us back to the pre-inquiry days of the nineteen-seventies.

Stevi-Lee Alver is a creative writing student at Southern Cross University. 

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