MEDIA STATEMENT

September 1, 2020

Helen Haines today will formally table her intention to introduce a bills package in the House of Representatives to establish an Australian Federal Integrity Commission (AFIC), and other measures to boost integrity in federal government.

The Independent Member for Indi will put two new bill titles on the Notice Paper:

  • the Australian Federal Integrity Commission (AFIC) Bill 2020 and
  • the Commonwealth Parliamentary Standards Bill 2020

“The bills I am drafting will meet the rigorous ‘Beechworth Principles’ that I released in February and tabled in the House as a community-led petition in May,” Dr Haines said.

“Yesterday, with my crossbench colleagues, I met with the Attorney General to discuss the government’s intended timeline on its promised integrity bill.

“It has not released an exposure draft of its bill since this Parliament began, despite publishing its proposal in December 2018. The timeline for the government bill remains unclear.

“I can also confirm that I’ve been meeting parliamentarians across the political spectrum in recent months to advocate for a strong integrity commission during this Parliament.

“As an Independent, I can speak candidly with fellow parliamentarians about their concerns, including the reach of a commission’s powers to consider public referrals and hold public hearings into alleged corruption.

“This new Australian Federal Integrity Commission (AFIC) proposal will respond to these concerns yet still offer a robust model that meets the ‘Beechworth Principles’.

“It is designed to be a constructive consensus bill that attracts the support of all my parliamentary colleagues, and present to the House a way forward on an integrity commission.

“It is important to get on and do this. The results of a survey from the Australia Institute undertaken in June show that three in four Australians from across the political spectrum support setting up a Commonwealth Integrity Commission this year.”

Dr Haines said the sports rorts grants scandal, allegations of party branch stacking, and widespread concern about the independence of the National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board had shown more than ever why we need trust in democracy.

“We must do this because our politics has never needed it more,” she said. “And we must do this because it is what we were elected to do.”

The new bills package will come in the wake of the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee August 12 recommendation to the Senate that it reject a National Integrity (Parliamentary Standards) Bill 2019 introduced by Australian Greens Senator Larissa Waters.

Dr Haines said the final version of the Australian Federal Integrity Commission bills would be introduced in the sitting opening on October 19.

Andrew Wilkie MP, Member for Clark:

Australia has been waiting in vain for almost two years for the Federal Government to progress some sort of integrity agency, so once again it’s left to the crossbench to get things moving. The country is crying out for a strong and independent anti-corruption body with teeth that can hold public hearings and launch its own probes. Every state in Australia has a body to investigate corruption and a national one to watch over federal politicians is well overdue. The crossbench is onside. I say to the major parties: If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

Zali Steggall OAM MP, Member for Warringah:

Good governance and accountability are cornerstones of democracy. Australia needs a federal integrity commission to ensure proper scrutiny and investigation of government.

Rebekha Sharkie MP, Member for Mayo:

A Federal Integrity Commission is a priority for the Australian people and it should be a priority for the Government. I call on the Government to introduce their promised legislation before the end of the year. If this Parliament does not take a stand against corruption, then what message are we sending to the Australian people?

The Honourable David Harper AM QC, member of the National Integrity Committee and former Judge of the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal:

In February, we recognised that an integrity commission with broad jurisdiction, strong investigative powers and the ability to hold fair public hearings was central to the Beechworth Principles released by Dr Haines in Indi.

The Australian Federal Integrity Commission bill package named by Dr Haines in the House today signals to Parliament the importance of bringing those principles to reality.

You can read the ‘Beechworth Principles’ at https://www.helenhaines.org/issues/integrity