House debates

Tuesday, 27 November 2018


National Integrity Commission

7:39 pm

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is it any wonder that the Australian public has lost trust in politics and our public institutions? Yesterday, the Morrison government went from opposing a national integrity commission to voting for a national integrity commission to considering a national integrity commission to finally calling the establishment of a national integrity commission—and this was from the Prime Minister—a 'fringe issue' all within a couple of hours. The Morrison government was a divided and chaotic minority government yesterday—and today? Well, it's even more divided, even more chaotic and, in fact, even more in the minority.

A national integrity commission is an important issue. Labor knows that and the government know that, but I fear that the government have no real intention of supporting a national integrity commission. They only voted for it because they have lost the numbers on the floor of parliament. They were caught in a bind where their only choice was to pretend to support a national integrity commission or to lose a vote on the floor of parliament. Of all the issues that this Morrison government would play politics and cynically skew a vote in parliament with, I would have thought that the vote for a national integrity commission would be the last one where they would ever be so disingenuous. A sleight of hand on integrity is the ultimate betrayal of the Australian people. Australians are sick of politicians who care more about their own jobs than about what is best for the country. The Prime Minister is so out of touch with ordinary Australians that he can't see that a national integrity commission is an essential part of beginning to restore faith in our politics and our democracy, and that it would be good for everybody because of that.

Labor has been advocating for a national integrity commission since January when the opposition leader announced that a Labor government, when elected, would get on and do the job. Australians don't have to wait until next year for a commission to be established to ensure that politicians are accountable and to ensure that there is not one set of rules for politicians and another for everybody else. It could actually be commenced now. But we know that the Prime Minister has form when it comes to being out of touch. Remember when he said that calling for a banking royal commission was 'a populist whinge'? The member for Cook then voted against establishing the banking royal commission 26 times.

The government has really run out of excuses for not establishing a national integrity commission. It voted for it just yesterday and the time has come. This parliament should now establish a national integrity commission. There is now an opportunity for all members of parliament—Labor, Liberal, Nationals and Independents—to come together and work to help design the most effective national integrity commission. Labor has set out seven design criteria for a national integrity commission: (1) it must operate as an independent statutory body, with the appropriate resources; (2) it would be constituted by one commissioner and two deputy commissioners; (3) it would have sufficiently broad jurisdiction and operate as a standing royal commission into serious and systemic corruption by Commonwealth parliamentarians or their staff, public servants, statutory office holders, the Commonwealth judiciary and even the Governor-General; (4) it would have the investigative powers, effectively, of a royal commission; (5) it would have discretion to hold hearings in public where it is in the public interest to do so; (6) it would be empowered only to make findings of fact, and any criminal findings that constituted criminal conduct would be referred to the AFP or the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions; and (7) a bipartisan joint standing commission of parliament would be established to oversee the commission and have the power to require the commission to provide information about its work. These are good checks and balances.

For me, integrity is never, ever a fringe issue. I believe a national integrity commission goes to the heart of our democracy. It is imperative that the community has faith in our public institutions and our leaders. The community is entitled to expect that those leading our nation are always governing for everybody, never for themselves or for improper purposes; that politicians are looking after all Australians, not just themselves; and that where there is a hint of impropriety it will be swiftly and thoroughly investigated by an independent body and then acted upon.

Australians want a national integrity commission. Labor wants a national integrity commission. The crossbench wants a national integrity commission. Now let's see if the Morrison government really want a national integrity commission. Let's see if they're fair dinkum. If they do, there is no excuse. It can be done now. The process can start now. If the Morrison government don't act, a Shorten Labor government, if elected in 2019, will get on with the job.