Surekha Ragavan
Feb 24, 2020

Australia has largest trust inequality in the world

“Australians feel a lack of confidence in the system. They feel that as it's currently constructed, it is broken": Edelman Australia

The Australian government, led by PM Scott Morrison, was criticised for its handling of the bushfire crisis
The Australian government, led by PM Scott Morrison, was criticised for its handling of the bushfire crisis

Findings from Edelman Australia’s Trust Barometer showed that Australians do not trust any of the four institutions measured: government, business, media and NGOs.

In the mass population, trust is recorded at 45 points while it's 59 points among the informed public. The past year also marked Australia’s highest trust gap on record, with a 23-point gap between the more trusting informed public and the more sceptical mass population.

A separate supplementary study showed that the environmental concerns were clear among Australians, with 89% of over 34,000 respondents citing the national bushfire crisis, droughts, water shortage and global warming as top concerns.

Edelman Australia CEO Michelle Hutton says that while Australians are asking big questions about the future, institutions must “drive action, embrace potentially difficult change and instil the confidence the nation is looking for”.

“Australia’s informed public saw a severe breakdown of trust from the government in response to the recent bushfire catastrophes. This should have been an opportunity to unite the nation and build security but instead, the lack of empathy, authenticity and communications crushed trust across the country,” she says.

“Australians no longer feel in control. The new decade marks an opportunity for our institutions to step up, take action, and lead on key issues that will unite Australians and instil hope for the future.”

Among the institutions that were graded, government ranked significantly lower on competency and ethics than the media, NGOs, and businesses. Government (48%) and media (45%) in particular are seen to be corrupt, biased, and overall lacking honesty in what they do while over half say government (61%) and business (59%) serve the interest of only a few. Overall, business was the only institution seen as competent, holding a 56-point edge over the government.

“Trust today is granted on two distinct attributes: competencedelivering on promises, and ethical behaviour, doing the right thing and working to improve society. It is no longer only a matter of what you do—it’s also how you do it. Trust is undeniably linked to doing what is right. The battle for trust will be fought on the field of ethical behaviour,” says Hutton.

While businesses fare well on competency, they fall short on ethical behaviour. Ethical drivers such as integrity, dependability and purpose drive 76% of the trust capital of an institution, while competence accounts for only 24%.

As environmental and political crises worsen, half of the population believe that capitalism as it exists today is now doing more harm than good in the world. Plus, 57% of Australians don’t think democracy is effective as a form of government, a further 73% desire change, and 72% feel a lack of confidence in the ability to make it happen.

“Australians feel a lack of confidence in the system. They feel that as it's currently constructed, it is broken. The Australian dream is fragile, the general population are in a place of pessimism that is accompanied by a call for change,” said Hutton.

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