Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



Conflicts between the public duties and private interests of government officials have received considerable attention and have produced a variety of legislative and executive actions. President Carter laid down high standards of behavior for his appointees; Congress tightened its financial disclosure requirements in 1977 and the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 embodies some of these measures in legislation. Britain established a register of Parliamentarians' interests in 1975 and a Royal Commission has made a report on the standards of behavior in public life. An Australian Joint Parliamentary Committee recommended a register of Parliamentarians' interests in 1975, and now a Committee of Inquiry is determining whether principles for the resolution of conflicts between public duty and private interest can be developed for Ministers, Parliamentarians, public servants, and other public officials.

This article outlines the existing law and practice involving conflicts of interest in the United States, Britain, and Australia, each of which exhibits a high level of economic and industrial advancement. United States developments are important because these far-reaching measures have been adopted by other governments. Because many countries have adopted the Westminster model of Parliamentary government, Britain's enviable record of high standards in public life demands examination. Australia ostensibly adopted the Westminster model with certain modifications which provide Australia with a federal system and a written constitution granting its High Court the power to review and invalidate legislation.