Call out con­flicts of in­ter­est

Tasmanian Country - - OPINION - Wayne Johnston

MANY of us in Tas­ma­nia are busy peo­ple but be­cause of our small pop­u­la­tion and a de­sire to con­trib­ute, we of­ten find our­selves called on to do mul­ti­ple tasks and fill mul­ti­ple po­si­tions at the same time.

In some ways this is very much a Tas­ma­nian at­tribute.

How­ever, the pas­sion to “be in­volved” and “give back” can come with a risk. Unfortunately in this state we see that risk be­come re­al­ity far too of­ten, some­times with dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects.

A con­flict of in­ter­est refers to a sit­u­a­tion where a con­flict arises for an in­di­vid­ual be­tween two com­pet­ing in­ter­ests. These are of­ten, but not ex­clu­sively, con­flicts of pub­lic duty ver­sus pri­vate in­ter­ests. Con­flict of in­ter­est can be rea­son­ably per­ceived, po­ten­tial or ac­tual.

In this state we need to be con­stantly vig­i­lant against the spec­tre of con­flict of in­ter­est. It is risk that in many in­stances we fail to mit­i­gate.

Of­ten the in­di­vid­u­als them­selves fail to recog­nise their own con­flicts of in­ter­est, and this can re­sult in in­ad­ver­tently in­crim­i­nat­ing ac­tions.

We must all be vig­i­lant to en­sure that if we sit on a board, com­mit­tee, coun­cil or any type of or­gan­i­sa­tional ar­range­ment we do not have a con­flict of in­ter­est or, if we find that we do, we step aside while key de­ci­sions are made.

If this state is to pros­per we should all strive for open­ness and trans­parency. We should en­sure that de­ci­sions are made for the ben­e­fit of all, not for the ben­e­fit of the few.

But this does not just ap­ply to in­di­vid­u­als. It also ap­plies to or­gan­i­sa­tions, to busi­nesses, and to the bu­reau­cracy and the gov­ern­ment. None of us are ex­empt.

These con­flicts arise in gov­ern­ments and de­part­ments, even in the not-for-profit sec­tor. In­deed, in the en­vi­ron­ment move­ment we have seen on oc­ca­sion bla­tant ex­am­ples. En­vi­ron­men­tal non-gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions pro­mote and cam­paign on a raft of en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues but too of­ten, be­cause of their own in­ter­nal con­flicts, fail to ad­dress some sig­nif­i­cant threats to our state.

Be­ing en­cum­bered with in­ter­nal and bu­reau­cratic con­flicts of in­ter­est of­ten leads to gov­ern­ments fail­ing to achieve op­ti­mum per­for­mance.

The chal­lenge for all of us is to ad­dress these in our own lives and ques­tion them when we find them in other ar­eas.

In some ways, it is bet­ter to over-de­clare than to stay silent. We cer­tainly shouldn’t be afraid to say to gov­ern­ments at any level or the as­so­ci­ated bu­reau­cracy, that in­her­ent con­flicts of in­ter­est are not ac­cept­able and do not rep­re­sent the fu­ture of Tas­ma­nia.

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