The Government’s response to the resignation of Gladys Berejiklian has shown it does not believe in a robust watchdog for parliamentarians, Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines says.
The Government promised an integrity commission almost three years ago.
Assistant Attorney General Amanda Stoker, who is responsible for the government’s toothlessproposal for an integrity commission, would only say on Tuesday she “hoped” the Governmentwould introduce legislation to Parliament by the end of the year.
Senator Stoker also tried to characterise integrity commissions as ineffective and wouldn’t committo a model that had retrospective powers to investigate past behaviour at the federal level.
On Tuesday Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “it’s certainly not a model that we ever consider at afederal level” about the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.
“For the prime minister to wholesale eliminate any particular model of an integrity commission is adistraction,” Dr Haines said.
“The Government is creating a false dichotomy between the NSW model or nothing at all. That’s simply not the case. We have a glaring gap in the federal parliament where there is no way to investigate rorts, potential corruption and wrongdoing. We must fix that.”
In 2020 Dr Haines introduced a Bill for the Australian Federal Integrity Commission to Parliament, a model developed with eminent retired judges, as well as other leading experts and academics.
It is arobust and broad model that has been described as gold-standard, with proper safeguards that distinguish it from the NSW model to ensure reputations are not needlessly trashed in public.
“The Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill uses the lessons learned from all the models of integrity commission in every state and territory across Australia,” Dr Haines said.
“It allows for both public and private hearings and it has strong safeguards to make sure the Commission only goes public with its investigations and hearings when it is absolutely in the public interest.”
“All the Government wants to do it have blanket private hearings for politicians, their staff and more than 80 per cent public servants. That’s nowhere near the right balance. The Government is trying to use what happened in NSW to scare Australians into believing secrecy is the only way forward. It’s unacceptable.”
It was reported on Tuesday that Government MPs were wary of an integrity commission being introduced at a federal level.
“Right now the Government will do anything they could to delay or avoid having an integrity commission at a federal level. But the Australian public deserves much more than that.
“We can design an integrity commission that has all the necessary safeguards, that makes sure that a person’s reputation is not unfairly trashed, but that we get sound good governance of the spending of taxpayers money.”
“It is not something MPs should be wary of, it’s something MPs should welcome.”
Dr Haines said her Bill for the Australian Federal Integrity Commission could be debated, amended and passed on the next sitting day, ending the delays and politicisation of an integrity commission between the major parties.
“We can’t go to another election talking about this, with no proper watchdog on the beat. My Bill is ready and must be debated without delay.”
“The only way this will get done properly if it comes from a safe pair of hands on the crossbench”
“The Government promised an integrity commission almost three years ago and since then have moved at a snail’s pace on a model that would not make any dent in standards of accountability and transparency.”
“The overwhelming majority of Australians want an integrity commission and passing my Bill wouldfulfill that demand of the Australian public.”