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Excerpts from lecture on ethics given by Graham Richardson at Curtin University

PETER CAVE: Former Labor strongman, Graham Richardson, was telling the truth about lying, last night, when he presented a lecture on ethics at Perth's Curtin University. According to Richo, telling lies is an integral part of the Westminster system of government, as Tony Hancocks reports from Perth.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON: No politician sets out to lose an election. They are obviously in it to win it. They'll research what people want and they'll go as far as they can in promising whatever they need to promise to achieve it. Mostly, they'll even believe they can achieve what they're promising. If they don't believe it when they're promising it, they'll convince themselves over time, and eventually they'll be absolutely adamant about it.

TONY HANCOCKS: Graham Richardson, who claims he is still in touch with informative sources who've told him that politicians, from all three major political parties, will soon be charged. He's confident of two, but says possibly a further four Members could face prosecution. Mr Richardson says there's a big difference between rorting travel claims and the requirement of politicians to bend the truth at times. He says the public accepts some dishonesty.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON: When Bob Hawke declared his undying love for Bill Hayden in 82, after the failed challenge, and said he'd do it again - how many of you believed it? When Paul Keating said he had one shot in the locker and he'd fired it in May of 91 - how many of you believed it? How many of you knew that the two of them would go straight out, straight out of the Caucus room and start playing the next challenge? Everyone knew.

There are rituals and forms to be observed, and the form is - and it's the right form by the way - that if you run in the ballot and you are beaten, you acknowledge the winner. It's just plain bad sportsmanship to say, 'Well, he's still a grub and I am going after him next week.' You know, you just can't do that.

But there are times when the Westminster system demands that, formally, when you walk out of a Cabinet meeting where there's been great debate, sometimes incredibly heated and abusive debate, and you are asked questions about whether you support the decision that the whole world knows you've been bitterly opposed to all your political life, and you're a Cabinet member, you have two choices: say, 'Yes, I support it' and give all the reasons why it's a great idea; or resign. They are the only choices available to you. And I don't believe that the Minister who stands up and argues with some feigned passion for whatever decision was taken, is doing the wrong thing. That Minister is doing exactly what the Westminster system requires of him or her.

TONY HANCOCKS: The former ALP numbers man says the public often isn't ready for the truth. Politicians are in the business of ensuring re-election and telling us what we want to hear, and when compared to the ethics of politicians in other countries, Australia fairs well. He ended his lecture with a challenge to find a truly honest politician.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON: As it stands, it is difficult to imagine that any politician can be elected without some compromise, no matter how small, for their ethical and moral principles.

If one political leader just one day has the courage to be totally frank with the electorate and still manages to win, maybe all this will change. I haven't met that person yet. But if we could find a leader with the larrikin panache of Kennett, the vision of a Whitlam, the compassion of a Hawke, the strength of a Keating, the grit and determination of a Howard - let's say something about Fraser - and be as tall as Malcolm Fraser, and have the soul of Mother Teresa, then bring this person to me. I will forsake my worldly goods and follow that person to the Promised Land. This I promise - you know I wouldn't lie to you. Thanks very much.

PETER CAVE: He may be waiting a long time. That's former Labor Senator, Graham Richardson.