LABOR elder John Faulkner has called for urgent action to dispel a ''corrosive'' public cynicism about modern politics - making all federal politicians abide by a code of ethics and giving greater legal protection to whistleblowers.
In an at times swingeing assessment of political integrity in Australia, Senator Faulkner did not spare Labor from criticism, calling for any member found guilty of corruption to be banned from the party and less power for the factional system.
''It is time to publicly acknowledge that there have been some in our party's ranks with neither political principles to defend nor moral convictions to uphold,'' Senator Faulkner told a University of Melbourne conference.
''They are a small minority, in a very big majority of decent, ethical people. But the fact that they are few in number does not diminish the gravity of the accusations against them, or the seriousness of their acts.''
His remarks come at the end of a political year dominated by scandals - including questions swirling around the conduct of former speaker Peter Slipper and Labor exile Craig Thomson.
The ALP in New South Wales has also been consumed by corruption allegations against local powerbroker Eddie Obeid and former treasurer Eric Roozendaal.
''A culture has developed in the NSW branch where, for some, being caught out at sharp practices is worn almost as a badge of honour. Our party would be immeasurably better off without such people,'' he said.
The comments echo former Labor leader Simon Crean a fortnight ago, calling for corrupt individuals on both sides of politics ''to be weeded out''.
Mr Crean has previously criticised ''factional warlords'' after he was challenged for his seat in 2006 and called for the party to be returned to the rank and file.
Senator Faulkner - highly regarded in Labor ranks as a voice of conscience and co-author of the party's 2010 election review - gave a broad and detailed case for transparency in politics. He urged adoption of stronger legislative protections for whistleblowers, describing the present laws as ''limited and inadequate''.
''Government integrity demands more than general expressions of goodwill,'' he said. ''There is a cynicism about politicians and their motives, not only here in Australia, but in many Western democracies.
''This cynicism is corrosive of democracy because it undermines the contract between elector and elected: it undermines the concept of mandate if citizens cast their vote without the expectation that their representatives will represent their views or act in their interest.''
He warned that trust in political processes could be undermined by large donations of cash or in kind and criticised an ''unedifying'' delay in the Parliament delivering on a commitment after the 2010 election to introduce a code of conduct for politicians.