June 22, 2021
Almost 60 prominent judges, lawyers experts and leaders have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister published in newspapers today calling on the Government to establish a strong, effective and independent integrity commission.
The signatories include the Hon Mary Gaudron QC, former Judge of the High Court of Australia, the Hon Tony Fitzgerald AC QC, who led the Fitzgerald Inquiry that uncovered corruption in the Queensland police force in the 1980’s, and the former Member for Indi Cathy McGowan AO.
Helen Haines MP launched the letter in Australian Parliament House on Tuesday with two of the signatories, the Hon Anthony Whealy QC and the Hon David Harper AM QC.
The letter calls for a robust integrity commission with broad jurisdiction, strong investigative powers and public hearings when it is in the public interest to do so, powers which are contained in Dr Haines’ Australian Federal Integrity Commission proposal but missing from the Government’s draft proposal.
Dr Haines said the Government urgently needed to legislate an Australian National Integrity Commission as Australians have had enough of the lack of accountability in our politics.
“For the last two years I have been fighting to clean up our politics and create the culture of integrity that Australians deserve from their political representatives,” she said.
“After decades as a nurse and midwife, one of the reasons I entered politics was to bring the standards I saw in my professional life, upheld by everyday people, into politics.
“I’ve introduced a bill into Parliament that will create a strong and independent Federal Integrity Commission. This commission will have the power to root out corruption, expose lies and hold our politicians to account. This bill has wide support, but Scott Morrison has been dragging his feet.
“All we have seen is a dud exposure draft which has been roundly rubbished by almost everyone. At the same time, I have a strong and robust bill that has the support of many signatories to this letter. And I know it has support of MPs from every party in Parliament.
“Today, 59 leaders today have told the Government that time’s up. Integrity can’t wait. The calls can’t be ignored any longer.
“In 2018 the Prime Minister promised that he would implement an integrity commission. The 8th of September 2021 will mark 1,000 days since he first made that promise. But we are still waiting on him to act.
“Establishing an integrity commission is the one thing all sides of politics agreed to do in this 46th Parliament. With only two months until an election could be called, this is fast shaping up to be a broken election promise.
“I don’t want to go to the next election without an integrity commission and neither do the Australian public.”
The ABC’s Australia Talks survey about 9 in 10 Australians believe the Government should establish a federal corruption watchdog. It also showed:
- 89 per cent believe that most politicians in Australia will lie if they feel the truth will hurt them politically
- 56 per cent believe Australian politicians are often corrupt
- 73 per cent think Australia is doing poorly in holding politicians to account
- 59 per cent disagree that politicians in Australia can generally be trusted to act in the interests of the people they represent
- 72 per cent disagree that politicians in Australia are usually held accountable for their actions.