Labor elder statesman John Faulkner has acknowledged a rotten few in the party ranks have ''neither political principles to defend nor moral convictions'' and called for the urgent adoption of a code of conduct for federal politicians.
In a detailed and at times withering speech on transparency in modern politics, Senator Faulkner has lamented the allegations of corruption against NSW Labor former ministers and party officials.
Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid is facing corruption hearings that have also engulfed former treasurer Eric Roozendaal.
After a political year dominated by scandals - including questions surrounding the conduct of former speaker Peter Slipper and Labor exile Craig Thomson – Senator Faulker's warnings will carry added potency.
He also warned trust in political processes could be ''undermined'' by large donations of cash or in kind.
''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 on integrity in government.
''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.
''To make that admission may leave the Labor Party open to criticism, but I am not so brazen as to make a speech about political integrity at a conference such as this and sweep issues in my own branch of my own Party under the carpet.''
Senator Faulkner - one of the authors of Labor's internal review following the 2010 election - called for a ''one strike and you're out" policy for any Labor member found guilty of acting corruptly inside or outside the party.
''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.
Senator Faulkner also criticised what he called an ''unedifying'' delay in the parliament delivering on a commitment after the 2010 election to introduce a code of conduct for politicians.
''I can see no justification for there being no code which sets out the applicable ethics standards for my conduct as a federal parliamentarian. It did seem after the last federal election there was a general agreement to right this wrong,'' he said.
He also urged adoption of stronger legislative protections for whistleblowers, describing the present laws as ''limited and inadequate''.
He said the widespread public cynicism about politicians and their motives was corrosive to democracy.
''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.''
Senator Faulker also expressed disapointment Australia had not signed on to an international push known as the ‘‘Open Government Partnership’’ numbering 57 countries.
''It is ironic that the largest recipient of Australia’s overseas development assistance, Indonesia, is a very active member of the Open Government Partnership and currently a co-chair, yet, Australia is nowhere to be seen.''