The accounting profession, like all professions, has a commitment to advance the interests of the general community, as well as those they are contractually bound to serve. Providing services altruistically, at times without compensation, is a salient feature of the public interest ideal. A review of the literature indicates that the profession has abandoned its public interest role so that serving self-interest now appears to have primacy (Bédard 2001; Canning and O'Dwyer 2001; Parker 1994; Saravanamuthu 2004). The aim of this paper is to examine members' interpretation of the public interest ideal and to elicit their perceptions on issues arising from the literature. The results of a survey to members of CPA Australia indicate that members can iterate the formal definition of the public interest, but their application of the public interest in conflict of interest situations is inconsistent with this definition.
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