I table the Advisory report on the provisions of the National Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2022 and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2022.
I seek leave to make a statement.
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 political life.
Trust and confidence in our national elected representatives and public officials has never been more critical. It is deeply regrettable that this faith and confidence in our parliament and public institutions has been eroded over the last decade. In 2021, Australia scored 73/100 on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index, ranking Australia 18th among the 180 countries that were assessed. This marks a concerning decline of 12 points since 2012.
Australians deserve better from their politicians. Australians need and deserve to know that the decisions being made, which impact their lives, are not affected by corrupt conduct.
Like many people in this place I stand here as someone who was elected by my community for my commitment to fight for integrity in politics and not stop until we have a robust anti-corruption commission.
Not a flimsy façade. Not a toothless tiger. Not a halfway house. A strong, independent and enduring institution that is trusted by the Australian people, and that takes its place as a pillar of our democratic and accountable system of government.
This is why the establishment of a National Anti-Corruption Commission is a watershed moment in our nation’s history.
The NACC will play an integral role in restoring public trust, by fostering a culture of transparency and accountability in Australia’s democracy.
This is a once in a generation reform. I am humbled to have the honour of tabling this report in the House today. This is the cumulation of decades of work on integrity reforms and a busy six weeks reviewing this Bill.
The Government has introduced the NACC legislation as a legislative priority. The Joint Select Parliamentary Committee, constituted by members of both Houses, has taken the task of analysing and considering the Bills seriously.
All members of the Committee have worked hard to ensure that the key issues raised by the Bills were given due consideration, and the Committee worked collaboratively to identify ways that the Bills could be improved.
The Committee heard from a wide range of organisations and individuals, including Commonwealth agencies, past and present commissioners and inspectors of state and territory based anti-corruption commissions, law societies, unions, think tanks, civil liberties groups and journalists and media organisations.
Many of these organisations and individuals have a long history of advocating for the establishment of a national anti-corruption commission, and have made significant contributions to the debate over a number of years.
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, including:
- Having broad jurisdiction and investigative powers;
- The broad definition of corrupt conduct;
- The referral mechanisms, which allow any person to bring a matter to the attention of the Commission;
- The consistent treatment of all public officials.
The Report tabled today makes 6 key recommendations for changes to the NACC Bill. These include:
- clarification of the extent of the protection for journalists’ sources;
- a proposal to increase the scope of the role of the NACC Inspector;
- clarification as to the NACC Commissioner’s power to undertake own motion investigations.
- creating an exemption for disclosure of certain information to medical professionals and psychologists;
- a change to the definition of corrupt conduct; and
- changes to the circumstances in which an exonerated person is required to be notified of the outcome of an investigation.
The Committee considers that these changes would improve the functioning of the NACC, having regard to the evidence received.
In its deliberations, the Committee noted diverse views about certain elements of the Bills. Those different perspectives are set out in the Report tabled today, and the Committee thanks those who made submissions or appeared at hearings for their thoughtful contributions.
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.
Members of the Committee differed on how to reach the shared goal of a robust anti-corruption commission.
Like other Members and Senators, I will make my case in Parliament for further improvement in this Bill before we deliver to the Australian people the national anti-corruption commission they deserve, that is fit for purpose and fulfils its role for many years to come.
I hope that all Members and Senators will engage in the debate on the Bill with the work of this committee to guide them, with civility and well considered argument. That’s how parliament should work.
I would like to thank my fellow Committee members for their close engagement and the knowledgeable contributions that each member made to this inquiry. In particular, I wish to thank the Chair, Senator Linda White, for her expertise, good judgement and good humour.
The Committee in particular thanks 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 job for striving for integrity in politics is never done. But by legislating the National Anti-Corruption Commission, we can set a new standard. This is a landmark opportunity to implement an integrity commission that holds politicians to account and creates a better level of transparency and governance at the federal level.
Mr Speaker, I commend this report to the House and in the spirit of civility and genuine collaboration cede some time to the member for Menzies who would like to make some brief remarks.