10 November 2022

Haines: Government should adopt committee recommendations on the National Anti-Corruption Commission Bill and consider further improvements

 The Joint Select Committee tasked with scrutinising the National Anti-Corruption Commission Bills has handed down its report, supporting the passage of the Bill and making six joint recommendations to the Government.

Tabling the report in the House of Representatives on Thursday, Deputy Chair of the Committee, Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines, said the Committee had delivered a consensus report.

“It was clear to the Committee that the overwhelming majority of groups and individuals supported the establishment of a national anti-corruption commission – and there was broad agreement in relation to a number of core elements of the Bills,” Dr Haines said.

“It was important to me that the Committee has a consensus report to support the passage of the Bill. The best decisions are reached through collaboration and consensus. If the NACC is to withstand changes of government and the whims of the times, it needs multipartisan support from the beginning.

“It is my sincere hope that this consensus continues beyond the Committee and that all members of this Parliament vote as one to pass this Bill.”

Despite the committee handing down a consensus report, Dr Haines signalled she would move amendments to the Bill when it comes up for debate.

“This is a good bill. The establishment of a National Anti-Corruption Commission is a watershed moment in our nation’s history. But it can be better, and that is why I intend to introduce amendments to the Bill and I am hopeful the Government will consider them in the same good faith way the Committee has engaged with the Bill.”

Dr Haines also made additional considerations regarding the exceptional circumstances test for holding public hearings, measures to increase transparency and independence of the Commission’s budget.

“The Committee did not hear compelling evidence from the Government in favour of retaining the exceptional circumstances test for holding public hearings, and many experts questioned why it was necessary,” Dr Haines said.

“Together with other members of the committee I have recommended the Government consider adding measures to increase the transparency around the budget of the NACC, and measures for a special majority of the oversight committee to approve appointments of the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner.

“These measures would increase the independence of the NACC and protect it against being politicised by future Governments. The Government should consider these measures closely as they would protect the longevity of the NACC and help set it up to succeed.”

Dr Haines also recommended ‘pork barrelling’ be explicitly included in the definition of corruption.

“If we are to ensure the NACC works to restore trust in politicians and Government, we must ensure that it covers pork barrelling. Australians now expect that Government money only goes where it is politically advantageous, not where it is most needed. My recommendations would go towards improving that trust.

Dr Haines praised her fellow committee members for the constructive and collegiate way the committee worked together to produce the final advisory report.

“The Joint Select Committee was given an ambitious deadline by the Government to examine the National Anti-Corruption Commission, but we worked across party lines in pursuit of a common goal – to make this legislation the best it could be. This is how the Parliamentary process should work and shows the strength of what can be achieved when we cooperate in this way and I thank my fellow committee members for that.

“In particular, I wish to thank the Chair, Senator Linda White, for her expertise, good judgement and good humour.

“I also want to thank the Secretariat for their tireless efforts in preparing the Report and assisting the Committee with hearings and other matters. They have done a power of work on a technical topic, with grace, forbearance and an unwavering commitment to doing justice to the task at hand.”

The committee report can be read here.

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