opinion

Editor’s Desk: Regions left to feel cheated over electoral reform but are some forms of cheating ever OK?

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Kate CampbellGeraldton Guardian
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On the cheating scale, the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair is right up there. But are there some forms of cheating — not the ones that wreck relationships and break hearts — that are OK?
Camera IconOn the cheating scale, the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair is right up there. But are there some forms of cheating — not the ones that wreck relationships and break hearts — that are OK? Credit: Getty Images

Three decades on, the shame lingers. I admit it — I cheated on a Year 3 maths test. Hastily written notes inked on my forearm, shielded by my school jumper.

The wool made my skin itch and the illicit ink made my conscience bleed with guilt.

I don’t think it even helped.

I wasn’t caught red-handed (shocking in itself as I have the opposite of a poker face) but from memory I barely even passed the test. The whole episode instilled two things in my young mind — my aversion to numbers, equations and anything mathematical; and that cheating is just not worth it.

If you’re labelled a cheater, it’s a tag hard to lose — a scarlet “C”, if you like. Sure, there are grey areas (yes, at times when watching a quiz show I’ll Google an answer that’s on the tip of my tongue, or if playing cards I’ll perhaps try to catch a glimpse of my rival’s hand).

Premier Mark McGowan is set to cruise his electoral reform Bill through Parliament with virtually no opposition.
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan is set to cruise his electoral reform Bill through Parliament with virtually no opposition. Credit: Don Lindsay/The West Australian

Aren’t these the cheating versions of little white lies that hurt no one? Hell, we’re not talking about Bill Clinton cheating on wife and country with the Monica Lewinsky affair. A cheating scandal playing out on renovation show The Block — in which some contestants had a photo of the season’s production schedule — has been dragged out so much and so dramatically it makes you think it will climax with the “cheaters” being paraded naked through the centre of Melbourne by a vicious nun yelling “shame” and a furious mob throwing stones, a la Cersei’s Game of Thrones comeuppance.

It got me thinking: how prevalent is cheating in our society, and to what extent is it an unforgivable sin? Yes, I know the 10 Commandments are anti-adultery, but I’m not talking about the kind of cheating that breaks hearts and wrecks marriages. Is there a “victimless” form of cheating that’s OK?

This week, accounting giant KPMG Australia was fined more than $600,000 over “widespread” cheating on online tests, with more than 1000 staff disciplined and two partners forced into retirement. The US audit watchdog found more than 1100 staff in the Australian branch “were involved in improper answer sharing” during tests.

Put it this way: if you think some minor forms of cheating are fine — whether it be playing a board game, pocketing extra money without saying anything if it’s accidentally given to you at a checkout, or jumping a queue — your moral compass can get eroded. If that kind of stuff is OK, the next-level type of dodgy behaviour might start looking acceptable. The line you would never cross could be a shifting threshold. The sense of integrity within an individual or institution should be fixed, not flexible.

This might be a stretch of a segue, but news this week of the McGowan Government’s overhaul of the Upper House electoral system, bringing in one vote, one value, has the regions feeling they will be left cheated — perhaps robbed of representation.

In a purely theoretical sense, the one vote, one value system seems fair. But when there is already a constant stream of issues about how the regions get overlooked, how will implementing a system, in which there is a risk of having no regionally based Upper House MPs elected, going to square the ledger and make a better system? I’m definitely not accusing McGowan and Co of cheating (perhaps lying, after the Premier repeatedly vowed the issue was not on his agenda during the election campaign — but that’s the reality of political spin and opportunism) but they are gaming the system.

No one is disputing someone, like Wilson Tucker who had just 98 primary votes, doesn’t really deserve to be elected but this new system has far broader implications than preventing that from happening again, including deepening the city-country divide, and making regional folk feel they matter even less. But it’s a rigged system because the McGowan Government has all the power to do what it likes, passing it freely through Parliament. They are running their own race and we, the voting public, are the ones who killed any opposition and gave the Labor team a head start and a shot of steroids. Looks like we may have cheated ourselves.

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