6 April 2022

Haines returns to Beechworth Courthouse to demand integrity commission this election

Helen Haines, Independent Federal Member for Indi, has stood with communities across Indi and called for the next Parliament to pass her Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill as a first item of business, irrespective of who forms Government.

The challenge comes days before Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce the federal election, before which he promised to deliver an integrity commission, a broken election promise.

“The overwhelming majority of Australians want a federal integrity commission to hold politicians to account. All Australians agree on this – governments need to be accountable for how they spend our taxpayer money,” Dr Haines said.

“Australians are tired of seeing endless corruption issues, of bad behaviour by both sides of politics. We are sick of billions of dollars wasted for political gain.”

Dr Haines said people in Indi wanted to know the decisions made by the government were being made in the public interest, not for political gain.

“When average Australians are looking at the family budget and working hard to make ends meet, we want to know the Government is making decisions in our best interest – not their political interest.”

“Just last week in the budget we saw over $13 billion in taxpayer money dished out to infrastructure projects without businesses cases and hand-picked projects in target Coalition seats. It’s just the beginning. We know there’s at least $2 billion more in project announcements coming before the election.”

“If there was less waste in Government spending and more accountability, we could slash waiting times for GPs, reduce wait times and gap fees for psychologists and build new hospitals and aged care facilities.”

“Instead we don’t have accountability about where our taxpayer funds are going. That’s why I’m fighting for a robust federal integrity commission.”

Dr Haines said stamping out corruption in politics would have a direct economic impact.

“Figures from Transparency International and PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) show that worsening perceptions of corruption in Australia have reduced GDP by up to $72.3 billion per year, or around 4 per cent of GDP. That’s an enormous amount of damage when cost of living remains sky-high.”

Dr Haines said no matter the election result, she would work to hold the Government to account.

“As an Independent, I don’t have to pick between doing the right thing or doing what party bosses tell me to do. I will push for a federal integrity commission no matter who is in the Lodge.

“The integrity commission I’ve put forward would reduce corruption, hold politicians to account and ensure taxpayer funds are not wasted to protect political careers.

Haines’ bill for an integrity commission progressed further than any other proposal for an integrity body in this parliament when Liberal backbencher Bridget Archer MP crossed the floor in November last year to support the bill.

With Ms Archer’s backing, Dr Haines secured a majority on the floor of the House of Representatives.

The vote was ultimately unsuccessful due to an undemocratic technicality, which made it near impossible for a vote to pass under COVID restrictions which limited the number of MPs allowed in the Chamber.

“It’s now been 1,210 days since the Prime Minister promised Australians an integrity commission before the last election. The Coalition has well and truly broken that promise, and if it wasn’t for a strong Independent voice in Parliament, they may have got away with it.

“As an Independent I will make sure promises made to Indi will be kept by whichever side forms Government.”

Dr Haines started her fight for an integrity commission at the Beechworth Courthouse more than two years ago in February 2020, drawing inspiration from the story an innocent Beechworth goldminer, William Guest who was shot by local police at the height of the goldrush in 1853.

Despite his innocence, two local inquests into the death saw police and government officials suppress key evidence to cover up mismanagement. Dozens of Beechworth gold miners rallied in response calling for an independent inquiry into the circumstances of Mr Guest’s death.

It was at that event in February 2020 that Dr Haines developed a set of five principles for a robust federal integrity commission:

  • Broad jurisdiction, covering everyone involved in the federal government and public service
  • One set of common rules or standard of behaviour
  • Appropriate powers to fulfill its purpose
  • Fair hearings, with investigations conducted openly when in the public interest
  • Accountability to the people

“The people of Indi have always known corruption and mismanagement when they see it,” She said.

The Centre for Public Integrity has assessed Dr Haines’ Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill as “gold standard”. The bill has received widespread support and endorsement from legal experts including former High Court and Supreme Court justices and academic experts in anti-corruption.

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