A short time ago, in late February, I spoke in this place about the genesis of this petition and how the Beechworth Principles came to be.
I shared the story of William Guest – an innocent young gold digger from Beechworth who, in 1853, was gunned down in a flagrant misuse of police power that went unchecked.
I also shared the story of an impassioned and resolute community of gold diggers in Beechworth who witnessed this injustice and refused to stand by and let their government respond to perverse breaches of public trust by conducting sham closed-door inquiries into itself.
Mr Speaker, this story may have been 167 years old but its principles rang deep and true for Australians today. Australians who believe our democracy is straining. Australians who are exhausted from politics prone to corruption, partiality and scandal.
Just like 1853, the community has raised its voice again.
The Beechworth Principles are simple but compelling, calling for a Federal Integrity Commission with five key characteristics:
- Broad jurisdiction to investigate the people it needs to
- Common rules so that everybody is held to the same standard of behaviour
- Appropriate powers, so that it can actually do its job
- Fair hearings, so that investigations are done openly when in the public interest
- Accountability to the people, so that the Commission answers to public, not political interests.
These five principles stand not as an ultimatum but an invitation.
These five principles are directed at a Government that has missed its own deadlines to introduce this Bill. Instead of an Integrity Commission, Mr Speaker, it has instead given us bountiful examples of why we need one.
In 1853, Dr (John) Owens, who led the fearless campaign for an independent inquiry into the circumstances of the shooting of William Guest, asked the people:
‘Do you know what the word representation means? Of course you do!’
It is never an accident that one finds themselves on the just side of history. Rather, it is the result of conscious choices to do right.
Mr Speaker, here are a set of endorsed and enduring principles upon which this Government can do right.
[May 13, 2020]
Media statement Indi’s Independent delivers integrity petition to Parliament