Thursday, 27 August 2020
Matters of Public Importance
National Integrity Commission
I have received a letter from the honourable member for Whitlam, proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The need for a National Integrity Commission in Australia.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
This week, the nation has been scandalised by the news of a thuggish operation at the heart of the Victorian Liberal Party, with racist messages denigrating members of the Indian community; sexist insults levelled against colleagues and their wives; rorting of taxpayer funds for political purposes; and thugging fellow MPs and senators, including the member for Menzies. The architect of this project is none other than the Assistant Treasurer. I might be the shadow Assistant Treasurer, but there's nobody in this parliament who is more shady than this guy.
The member for Deakin, the Assistant Treasurer, has spent more time skulking in the shadows than assisting the Australian people in this time of economic crisis. He has spent more time undermining the public's trust and faith in democracy than protecting Australian jobs. He has spent more time spending taxpayer dollars on personal political goals than on overseeing the Australian tax office. I've argued for many years in this place for a federal independent commission against corruption, but there is not a man or woman in this House who makes a better argument for a federal ICAC than the member for Deakin. He has abused public office for his own private purpose. When the aged care royal commission—
Government members interjecting—
While the aged care royal commission has told us that up to 50 per cent of residents in aged-care homes are malnourished—starving—and they don't have the staff to look after the residents, the member for Deakin is using his staff to go out and stack branches against his opponents. Not satisfied with misusing—
Very sensitive on these issues! I can understand why other members of the Victorian Liberal Party are as sensitive as the minister at the table.
But, not satisfied with the behaviour in his own office, he's been caught red-handed trying to interfere in the administration of the office of the member for Menzies. How can we believe anything that this member has to say? If it's not bad enough that he produces flyers, and distributes them amongst his electorate, that he knows to be full of lies—he knows that they are untrue—he uses taxpayers' money to do it! This is the minister responsible for the tax office!
I thank the Deputy Speaker for this guidance. But serious allegations have been made against this minister, and we know that the Liberal Party treats them seriously as well because none other than the Treasurer has ordered an investigation into the Victorian branch of his own party; none other than the Treasurer is consulting with colleagues to see whether an investigation and then a takeover of the Victorian branch is warranted because of the behaviour of the member for Deakin. I can understand why members opposite find this very hard to hear. They find it very hard to hear—and so do the people of Australia.
If you are looking for a standard to judge this behaviour by, look to the standard set by the Prime Minister, because, in July this year, he called it 'corruption'—corruption on an industrial scale. It might be hard to hear, but, if this is the test of leadership, if this is the test that the Prime Minister has set for this parliament, then he must apply it to the member for Deakin. When similar events occurred in Victoria, the Premier sacked the responsible minister before lunchtime. I don't think decency and swift action should be the exclusive domain of the Australian Labor Party. John Howard would have wasted no time sacking this bloke and the aged care minister at the same time. They'd have been out the door before lunchtime. He is the minister responsible for tax law in this country, but he has shown contempt for taxpayers and contempt for the law. He has to go. There is no shortage of government backbenchers who would happily take his job. None of them could do a good job, but few of them could do a worse job than the member for Deakin. I've had my disagreements with the member for Goldstein, but there's no doubt he's been spending the last two years polishing his CV as well. No wonder the member for Goldstein is a little bit nervous; the member for Deakin has been spending more than a little bit of energy trying to shoehorn him out of the seat he's in.
There should be no place for the member for Deakin on the front bench in this House. He's been responsible for the Australian tax office, but he's led Australians to believe they can have no trust in the way he administers taxpayer funds in his own office. A corruption-busting QC had this to say on national television this week: 'He should be sacked. There is a prima facie case of crime. He should be sacked.' What is the Prime Minister waiting for? It's not as if he's protecting a minister who's had a sterling career in this place and has contributed to a body of public policy. It's not as if he's an invaluable colleague who's contributed to the front bench.
This guy has the Midas touch in reverse: everything he's touched—well, it hasn't turned to gold, that's for sure! He's responsible for the administration of the superannuation early access scheme. On his own watch, that scheme has seen millions of dollars stolen, fraudulently, from some of the lowest-paid people in this country. He froze the operation of the scheme for a few days, but not one single cent has been paid in compensation from the Commonwealth to those members who have had their money stolen from them because of the operation of this scheme and the hopeless administration of this hapless minister.
As the member for Blaxland reminds us, the member for Deakin is responsible for the HomeBuilder scheme. If jobs were created by press releases then every builder in this country would be in full employment. But not one single dollar has been paid out under this scheme. So if the Prime Minister is going to expect this House to play a Team Australia moment he should do the right thing and sack this minister who has done everything within his power to bring disgrace upon this House and every single one of us. (Time expired)
That was one of the greatest abuses of parliamentary privilege that I have witnessed in my time in this parliament. For five or 10 minutes the member for Whitlam said claim after claim after claim against the member for Deakin which he does not have the courage to say outside of this place.
Opposition members interjecting—
If this member has the courage of his convictions, if he actually believes the things that he said in that statement, he should step outside of the chamber—
Opposition members interjecting—
I have never seen an abuse of parliamentary privilege like this in my entire 10 years in the federal parliament. If the member for Whitlam has a centimetre of courage and decency, and conviction in relation to the things that he claimed, he should step outside of this chamber and make exactly the same claims outside of this chamber. He should say the same, directly outside of this chamber, about rorting, about abuse, about directly using taxpayers funds for inappropriate purposes. But he won't. He's deliberately using this process to smear a very good minister of the Morrison government, a minister who designed the HomeBuilder program, which the member for Whitlam claims has been an absolute farce—
Ms Madeleine King interjecting—
Yet the Master Builders Association said it was the single best stimulus measure that they have ever seen. And we know that the housing and construction industry, more generally, has been saying that this has been keeping up the demand for construction and keeping tradies employed, which is just so important at this particular time.
Mr Hill interjecting—
He has designed other home incentive packages as well. And, yes, he had a contribution to make towards the early access to superannuation scheme and we all should be very proud of that contribution—as did the assistant financial services minister also. It was a scheme where people could access their own money in these very desperate times, whereas the Labor Party, of course, thinks that that money belongs to something else.
I'm disgusted in the member for Whitlam—I'm disgusted in him! I expected more from this member. I thought he was a more decent individual than he has shown himself to be today. These were serious allegations. I again ask him to step outside of this chamber and say exactly the same thing. But he will not, and that says everything about this individual and everything about the claims he has been making.
But if you want to talk about the difference between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party, you don't need to go very far. He said that these instances were exactly the same. Well, go back and have a look at the TV footage on what occurred in the member for Holt's electorate office, under camera, on footage, about people admitting what they had done. That's what occurred and, quite rightly, those ministers, those state ministers, were sacked immediately, and quite rightly. The federal intervention of the Labor Party over the Victorian branch of the Labor Party was put into place to deal with that sort of behaviour, which was rotten to the core.
We know this party, the Labor Party, is the party of Eddie Obeid. It is the party of Craig Thomson. It's the party of Sam Dastyari. It's the party of Joe Tripodi and Tony Kelly. That's what this party is standing up for.
Mr Stephen Jones interjecting—
They use this place to smear good ministers, and it is disgraceful. Their normal tactic—and I see the member for Isaacs on the screen back there—when they want to smear good, hardworking ministers, is to refer them to the Australian Federal Police. The member Isaacs, sitting up there on the screen in the back corner, has done that 10 times now. He refers to the Federal Police, quickly puts the press release out there that this person has been referred for criminal activity and therefore warrants an investigation. Of course, when the shadow Attorney-General issues such a referral, the Federal Police, quite rightly, take account of that referral and look into it. But do you know what the results have been from each of those 10 referrals to the Federal Police? How many do you think have actually been followed up and the Australian Federal Police have said, 'Yes, there's a matter to deal with here'? Was it nine out of 10 or 10 out of 10? Not a single one of the member for Isaacs' referrals to the Australian Federal Police has even been followed up and decided that there should be charges laid by the Australian Federal Police. Not a single one! That's the type of thing the Labor Party does to our hardworking ministers who are in the government right now, working around the clock, creating jobs, as the member for Deakin, the Assistant Treasurer, has been doing. And now today they come in and say the worst of all smears that I've heard in my 10 years here. The actual MPI today is about a crime and misconduct commission, a Commonwealth integrity commission, something which this government has committed to, something which this government has taken its time to establish, to ensure accountability across the public sector. I can inform the House that the draft legislation establishing the Commonwealth Integrity Commission—
Mr Hill interjecting—
I am one of the happiest men, certainly in this chamber, that one of those state ministers has been dismissed.
I can inform the House that there is draft legislation established for the Commonwealth Integrity Commission. It's ready and will be released at an appropriate time, after more immediate priorities concerning the management of the COVID recovery have been dealt with. There is $106.6 million which has been allocated towards this commission. There has been tremendous consultation work undertaken by the Attorney-General. This is a difficult piece of legal work to put into place, but I believe that the Attorney-General has managed to draft good legislation which will have very significant powers. The Commonwealth Integrity Commission will have investigatory powers that are greater than a royal commission, including the ability to hold hearings and compel witnesses to testify.
The Labor Party, on the other hand, have been calling for a Commonwealth integrity commission for many, many years, but do you know how far they've got in designing theirs? They've got seven principles, I believe. That's it. That's all they've got. The Greens have developed a bill.
Ms Murphy interjecting—
Guess where the Labor Party are now leaning? They've decided, 'We can't develop our own and put it into the parliament, so we'll just grab the Greens one and back theirs in.' I know what Joel Fitzgibbon would say in relation to that. It's another perfect example of letting the Greens do the work and jumping onto the Greens bandwagon, despite all of the flaws in theirs. We won't be supporting the Greens bill. There are serious flaws in that bill. But we will be introducing a Commonwealth integrity commission at the appropriate time, after full consultation, as has been occurring, and it will have full powers to be able to investigate. It will be a very important agency.
In bringing this MPI, the member for Whitlam was never serious about the crime and misconduct commission. This MPI wasn't actually about that. If it were, he would have spoken about it. He would have laid out Labor's principles, rather than just adopting the Greens one. Rather, it was a desperate ploy, a disgraceful ploy, to smear a good minister of this government.
The ever-growing list of scandals involving the Morrison government shows why Australia urgently needs a powerful and independent national integrity commission. Unfortunately that list of scandals also shows Australians why the Prime Minister and his colleagues continue to do all they can to delay establishing such a body. While the government did eventually announce, begrudgingly and belatedly, a proposed model for an integrity body, it was rightly and universally derided by integrity experts, lawyers and academics across Australia. That was about three years ago. Where is that legislation? Where is even draft legislation? The Morrison government's proposed corruption body is worse than worthless; it is a sham, a political ploy, another marketing announcement and smokescreen from this government, behind which corruption in politics would be allowed to continue unchecked: scandals such as the industrial-scale and blatantly unlawful diversion of taxpayers' money into the Liberal Party's re-election campaign, in the sports rorts affair; the use of a forged document by the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction; the dubious dealings of the Minister for Home Affairs in relation to the au pairs; the refusal of Senator Cash to cooperate with an AFP investigation into an unlawful tip-off from within her own office; the member for Fadden's innumerable conflicts of interest and run-ins with basic standards of integrity—and that's not close to a full list.
The sheer number of corruption matters arising from within this government is disturbing enough, but even more disturbing has been this government's pathetic response, because in every case the Prime Minister has reacted by doing everything within his power, and some things outside his power, to cover that corruption up. Now we have a new corruption scandal that extends all the way to the Assistant Treasurer and to the member for Menzies.
Thank you, Deputy Speaker. The MPI is not an excuse to flout the standing orders. I ask the member to withdraw the allegation that the Prime Minister is covering up corruption.
I referred to a new corruption scandal. I withdraw that. As stated by the government's Special Minister of State, this is what the law requires:
Electorate Officers … are employed to assist the Senator or Member to carry out duties as a Member of Parliament, and not for party political purposes.
But, as 60 Minutes and the Nine newspapers have revealed with evidence from multiple sources, taxpayer funded electorate officers were employed within the offices of both the Assistant Treasurer and the member for Menzies exclusively for party political purposes. Even worse than that, these factional players were hired at taxpayer expense for the reprehensible activity of branch stacking, and it's clear from the evidence we've seen to date that the Assistant Treasurer was aware of and endorsed this clear abuse of taxpayer resources.
How is it that this Prime Minister, who sends debt collectors after vulnerable and innocent Australians under his illegal robodebt scheme, can continue to support as the Assistant Treasurer a person who has, according to news reports, been caught red-handed misusing public money? As former counsel to the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption Geoffrey Watson SC declared:
I very much doubt that Sukkar can or should remain a minister of the Crown. A minister is a position of real power and thus real trust and you cannot have it in the hands of people who abuse it
This latest scandal has set another clear test for the Prime Minister. Will he follow the standard set by the Leader of the Opposition and act decisively against senior figures in his own party, or will he try to sweep this scandal under the carpet too? Will he clean it up or cover it up? Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the Prime Minister once again has failed this basic test of integrity and responsibility. It's unsurprising because responsibility is something this Prime Minister runs from at every turn. We saw it when the Prime Minister jetted off to Hawaii on a secret holiday while Australia burned. We saw it this week again as he has tried to pretend that aged care wasn't really— (Time expired)
I came into this chamber today in good faith—but that's been shattered—that we were going to debate in this MPI the characteristics of an integrity commission, maybe what should and shouldn't be in it, how it can be improved and the types of things that should happen in a consultation process when you're putting something like that together, which we are. But, of course, that's not what it's about at all. It was never the intention of those opposite to come in here and debate the characteristics of a good integrity commission or how you could improve an integrity commission. That was not their intention at all. Their intention—and we've seen it from the member for Whitlam and now from the member for Isaacs—was to come in here and give some very tawdry performances.
It is very easy to come in here behind parliamentary privilege and start shouting out allegations about politicians on the other side of this place. If we wanted to do that, we could. There's plenty of ammunition with which we could come in here behind parliamentary privilege too. If you're going to quote TV shows, there was a TV show not that long ago that had some pretty interesting allegations about members of the Labor Party. We could come in and do the same thing. Wouldn't that be edifying? Wouldn't that be edifying right now for the people of Australia? Wouldn't that be edifying right now if we were both doing that as Australians were worried about their jobs, their businesses and their health? The best the Labor Party can do, while that's going on, is come in and give an exceptionally tawdry affair, behind an MPI in which they say want to talk about an integrity commission, and just make baseless allegations against members opposite them. It's a very, very disappointing day today for the parliamentary performance of the Labor Party.
Let's go to the issue of an integrity commission. As the Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure said earlier, yes, we are well advanced, and if it weren't for COVID and other disruptions to parliament we'd be even more progressed in the establishment of the Commonwealth Integrity Commission. A detailed consultation paper has been put out. The model is in two parts. I know those opposite don't want to listen to this; they have no interest in it. They just want to get up. I'm sure the next member, whoever it is, has got their piece of paper out, ready to go and insult people on this side.
I'm sure they don't want to listen to this, but I'll go through where we are in the establishment of the Commonwealth Integrity Commission. There are going to be two parts. There is going to be a law enforcement integrity division. It's going to have the same functions and powers as the current Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity but with even broader jurisdiction. The second is an entirely new part, which is going to be the public sector integrity division. This will investigate alleged criminal corruption involving the remainder of the public sector departments, their staff, parliamentarians' staff and judicial officers. It will have very broad jurisdiction.
While I'm talking about this I want to make the point that, despite some very well documented exceptions, like Eddie Obeid, Australia is by international comparison a very non-corrupt country. I think it's important that the other side acknowledge that. I hope they would, even though they're just doing their performances today. There are obviously examples of corruption, but, generally speaking, the majority of people in this place and many other public officials around this country do their job very well and with no effect of corruption.
Returning to what we're looking to do, the model we're proposing would have standing powers greater than those of a royal commission. Both the law enforcement integrity side and the public sector integrity side would have powers beyond those of a royal commission. On the agencies, one of the reasons Australia does have a good record in not being a corrupt country is that we have a multiagency approach to anticorruption activities. Already we have the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, the Australian Electoral Commission, the Australian Federal Police, the AFP-hosted Fraud and Anti-Corruption centre, the Australian National Audit Office, the Australian Public Service Commission, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority, the inspectors-general of intelligence, security, taxation and the Australian Defence Force. We have a lot of agencies already in a multiagency approach that look at this.
I throw the challenge to the next Labor member to get up. Don't give a tawdry performance and throw baseless allegations around. Talk about the merits of a good integrity commission.
Anybody who thinks corruption doesn't exist here, who thinks that corruption doesn't exist at a federal level is just naive. Of course it exists. We need the right sort of body with the right sort of powers to find it and weed it out.
A government member interjecting—
We have a member here saying it's the police. It's not just the police. You need corruption watchdogs to make sure that people in every government agency and, for that matter, here in parliament are not acting corruptly. Let me give you just one example. When I was Minister for Home Affairs, one of the first things I was briefed on was a corruption investigation at Sydney airport. Customs officials were using their powers to get drugs into the country. It was an investigation headed by ACLEI, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.
Some members here know who ACLEI is; most members of the Australian public won't. It is a little-known corruption watchdog that looks over the Federal Police and looks over Customs and other organisations. It did a good job—a damn good job there—that led to the arrest of two people and the establishment of the Customs Reform Board. I set that up at the time. It was headed by Justice James Wood, the man whom many people here would know was the royal commissioner into the New South Wales Police Force. It also involved the doubling of the number of the organisations that ACLEI oversees. But even that's not enough.
I think everybody in this House now knows that we need a national integrity commission—the sort of organisation that looks across the board, oversights every government agency and every government department, and looks over us. One that covers the board—and we don't have one at the moment. We've been calling for that for 2½ years. We've called on the government to do that countless times. The government finally agreed to do it in December 2018. That was a year and a half ago, and we're still waiting. We still don't have a bill. We still don't even have a draft bill. If there is a year that shows why we need a national integrity commission, it's this year.
Let me give you just two examples. The first one is the sports rorts scandal—do you remember that? Mums and dads, on behalf of sporting clubs, put together applications for funds for their local club. They were all independently assessed. And then the government just ripped them up. We had an Auditor-General report that showed that 73 per cent of the projects approved by the minister weren't recommended by the independent assessor. We got a colour-coded spreadsheet leaked to the media that showed the money was allocated based on marginal seats. We had more smoking guns than a Clint Eastwood movie, and still the minister wasn't sacked. The only reason the minister eventually resigned was that, apparently, she was a member of a club that she gave money to and she hadn't declared that. Still not one member on the other side has had the decency to admit that they did anything wrong there. If that's not an example of why we need a national integrity commission, then I don't know what is.
The second example is the scandal that was revealed on 60 Minutes last Sunday night. It's very, very rare that you get written evidence of a minister approving the misuse of taxpayers' money. But that's what we got on Sunday night. We saw evidence of a document setting out the whole plan about stacking branches and using electorate staff to do it, and then an email from the minister saying, 'Good summary.' Today there was another document, where the minister signed off by saying: 'Good stuff. Well done.' It shows that the minister knew what was happening and endorsed it. If that's not the sort of thing—
To assist the House, I withdraw. But I make this point: this shows we need a national integrity commission. But it doesn't take a national integrity commission for the Prime Minister to act. All he needs to do is apply the same standards he set for the Labor Party back in June. All he needs to do is apply the same standards that John Howard applied to himself when he was Prime Minister back in 1996, when he sacked three ministers for the same thing—misusing taxpayers' money. All he needs to do is apply those standards today; he only needs to apply his own ministerial code. If he doesn't, and if he doesn't sack Minister Sukkar, then he is just treating the Australian public like suckers.
I have to say, like the member for Page, I was really interested in discussing a national integrity commission—the basis for it, the principles underlying it. And then for 15 minutes—add another 2½ minutes, because the member for Blaxland did actually make some valid comments at the beginning of his presentation. So we had about 17½ minutes of character assassination. As the member for Page pointed out—and the Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure made a comment earlier—there was clearly no intention of a discussion about a national integrity commission. I am in favour of a national integrity commission. This government is in favour of a national integrity commission. We need to establish the principles behind it, and we need to make sure that the body is just as appropriate. Character assassinations, allegations such as those that have been carried out in this House this afternoon, lead further to the conclusion that we need such a commission. That people can come in and make allegations without the person against whom they're made having the opportunity, with appropriate natural justice and appropriate representation, to defend themselves is inexcusable.
Something I also have to say is that the 17½ minutes that I sat through is why the Australian public has lost confidence in our parliament. There is a pandemic. The topic is meant to be about integrity, and it was 17½ minutes of character assassination. I don't think that the member who put forward the topic actually mentioned the words national integrity commission in his 10-minute address. That to me is an abuse of parliamentary time. It's a waste of government money.
I'm going to spend the next two minutes 46 talking about what should be in a national integrity commission. I know something about these bodies. I know that when these bodies are not done properly, they can ruin peoples' lives. They can drag innocent people into them and they can have their lives, their livelihoods, destroyed. I know people who've been caught up in false or untrue allegations through integrity commissions, and their lives were irredeemably changed for the worse.
When we set up a national integrity commission—and this is what our Attorney-General is doing and this is what our Prime Minister is committed to—it's got to be balanced. It's got to make sure that we are weeding out serious corruption and that corruption is properly defined. We have to have a body that actually tries to educate people about corruption and then has the power to properly investigate and enforce. But you've got to have the balance on the other side so that people who get drawn into this commission or these bodies are given natural justice and protections. That is why we have been spending time, that is why the Attorney-General has been consulting widely.
I'm really disappointed that members of the crossbench aren't here today, because I know the member for Indi is passionate about a national integrity commission. She and I have had a number of excellent discussions about what should be in it. She has been engaged with the Attorney-General, as have other members of the crossbench, to discuss the framework as to what should go in it. What is important are the hours that have gone into the consultation to set it up.
We know that corruption exists—I think the member for Blaxland said that. Anybody who thinks that corruption in public office doesn't exist is extremely naive. Corruption does exist, and it's something that must be stamped out. That is why we're going to set up an appropriately resourced body, $106 million put into the budget. That money has been committed. We are setting it up and we're going to set it up with an appropriate balance.
Again, I go back to my starting point, like the member for Page: this was an inexcusable waste of a Thursday afternoon of taxpayers' money and, if anything, this would fall within my definition of corruption. Thank you.
I don't think calling out corruption is ever a waste of the federal parliament's time. It is absolutely critical. We've all had conversations across the last year about the public's faith in our public institutions, and today's MPI is about just that.
I'm speaking from my electorate office today in Werribee. During the pandemic, my staff have been incredibly dedicated. They've worked tirelessly to assist locals in these tough times. They've worked tirelessly in my office to assist constituents every day that I have been the member for Lalor. They have worked and worked to support the community that I am honoured to represent.
I'm speaking on this MPI today because I'm concerned that, after what I saw on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, the people in the seats of Deakin and Menzies are not getting that same attention to detail. There are other things going on in their office as alleged on 60 Minutes. If Mr Sukkar has neglected his job as the member for Deakin, and as a minister, because he wants to be emperor of the opposition benches in Spring Street then the people of Deakin are missing out!
In today's MPI we heard from the member for Aston and the member for Page about an integrity commission. Well, folks, we've been waiting a long time now for this integrity commission. You can't miss the connection here: we've been waiting 1,369 days for draft legislation to come into this parliament to stop payday lending sharks, and we've now been waiting 18 months for an integrity commission. We were shown clearly why we needed one by 60 Minutes on Sunday night—so that these things can be investigated independently, so that these things can be cut out at the core. The allegations are that people who sit in the building where we all sit—in the House of Representatives, in the people's house, in the federal parliament—have had their minds on things other than serving the Australian public, the people they are elected to represent.
I know how my constituents feel about that. I know how my community feels about that. They don't want to see that in the federal parliament—and they don't want to see it anywhere. But do you know what they do want to see? They want to see a Prime Minister stand up. They want to see the Prime Minister assure them that he will put a stop to this kind of behaviour—and here is his chance to do exactly what the Australian public want to see. They want to see a Prime Minister who doesn't shirk his responsibilities. They want to see a Prime Minister sack anyone who is connected to this kind of scandal. So this Prime Minister needs to take that action.
To those opposite who think it's a day to talk about a national integrity commission: no, the ball is in your court. It is time for you to act on a national integrity commission. It is time for you to win back some of the faith for our public institutions. The Prime Minister should act immediately. He should sack anybody involved in this scandal. If those involved in this scandal had any honour, they would sack themselves and would resign. They would act like others have acted. They would act and not allow for a timely resignation somewhere down the track. They certainly shouldn't be hiding behind a pandemic as to why we don't have a national integrity commission. This government needs to step up and reassure the Australian public that it has their best interests at heart. In doing so, they would sacrifice themselves to do the right thing by the Australian public. Yes, it's time for a national integrity commission. But, more importantly, it is time for this Prime Minister to sack Minister Sukkar.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Well, aren't we the Teletubbies of Australian politics! With less than an hour to go—go to bed Laa-Laa, go to bed Po; get back down your holes! An MPI brought on on a Thursday by the Cosmo Kramer of Australian politics, the member for Whitlam, means you're not very serious about this issue. With an MPI brought on on a Thursday, when many have already left—I would say some are on the sauce and some are on the sleep—it is KwaZulu that this is an absolute and utter afterthought. An MPI that is brought on on a Thursday, last thing before everybody goes to sleep, about a program that was on Sunday, means you're not really serious about this at all. It's called a tick-a-box MPI: 'Somebody had better say something about this. Otherwise, they'll think we're up to our necks in something similar!' That's what an MPI on Thursday means. I mean, look at it—hardly anybody's here! They've all gone. They've left. They're in their black-and-white Comcars and they're out at the airport, or they're going home or going for a quick round of golf or booking in early to a restaurant. You don't take this seriously at all! And of course you wouldn't. I mean, this is the same crowd, the Australian Labor Party, that has made 10 referrals to the AFP on spurious grounds.
This is the concern. If we go back to the actual subject matter, these things can be used as a mechanism to exalt the bureaucracy over the rights of the parliament and over the rights of the minister. The reason we have a parliament is that the Australian people, for better or worse, put faith in their politicians and the representatives of executive governments, as noted by cabinet ministers, to do the job that they have been voted in and appointed to do. Of course the people who love excessive ICACs and integrity commissions are bureaucrats, who never want their decisions doubted, and minor parties, who can use this as a mechanism of leverage to drive agendas that are at odds with the elected body. And we know the people who are going to be referred to this. They're going to be ministers, because they dare to differ from the bureaucracy; therefore, they must be, obviously, corrupt!
So don't create a rod for your own back. You will be the government.
Dr Leigh interjecting—
I hear the interjections, Member for Fenner. Well, let's just go through a little list. What do these people have in common: Eddie Obeid, Mr Macdonald, Mr Somyurek, Mr Tripodi, Mr Dastyari, Mr Theophanous, Craig Thomson, Milton Orkopoulos? Then let me go to a union official: John Setka. And I'll finish with this one: John Curtin. Member for Fenner, as a good reader of history, you will know why I mention John Curtin, won't you? You'll know why, because you're an intelligent feller. Why would I mention John Curtin? You don't even know the history of your own party. It's because John Curtin had a criminal conviction against him, before he came to parliament. John Curtin, you see, refused to have the compulsory medical required for conscription. He was the first Prime Minister who came to parliament with a criminal conviction. So what would you say? Would you remove John Curtin? Would you get rid of him? I'd put him down as one of the greatest Prime Ministers this nation has had. So be careful what you create. I would also say to the member for Fenner: you're not as smart as you look, mate. Go do some reading. So we would see this is as, basically, a mechanism that would be a rod for your own back.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I withdraw, with due deference, the insult, and I apologise. I apologise deeply.
The socialists—and I hope that's not the insult!—on 22 June said that they believed 'a quarter of the Victorian members are there by reason of branch stacking'. Well, what an indictment! So if you get a proper ICAC, you know who you're going to get rid of? The whole of the Australian Labor Party!
It is a difficult time for our community here in Victoria. We're anxious. We're tired. All the while, we're hoping that our efforts mean our COVID case numbers continue to head in the right direction. I am really grateful that this week our parliament has been able to work out the technology and the procedures for me to be able to participate remotely, because it's part of me being accountable to my community, and that's what my community expects of me, and of all their politicians, particularly at this time of crisis.
Leadership at this time means demonstrating accountability and responsibility. It means taking every opportunity to show you are behaving with integrity so that you demonstrate you are respecting the many, many sacrifices people in our community are making.
But that's not what we're getting from this Prime Minister, his ministers or, indeed, the government members who have taken part in this debate. I can assure the member for New England that I'm deadly serious about this debate this afternoon. His reference to members being on the sauce at this time of a Thursday afternoon might be what he normally does, but it's certainly not what I do and it's not what the point of this debate is about. If you've got integrity, you're prepared to be judged and you're prepared to be measured on it. This government has not only refused to establish a national integrity commission but also refused many times to allow the establishment of one to be debated in the House. In some ways, that's not surprising when you consider the long list of scandals this government has no interest in having a proper investigation into. The most recent of those is the Liberal Party branch stacking and the role of the Assistant Treasurer. That's obviously just the most recent example. Of course, from earlier this year, we've got the sports rorts affair. My community certainly has not forgotten that and the unfair and unjust way this government spent taxpayers' money to secure its own re-election. We have the energy minister and his forged document that he apparently knows nothing about the origin of. We have example after example of why we need a powerful, transparent and independent national integrity commission. What we got from the Prime Minister in question time today was a triumphant, 'There's no-one better than us,' roll call of his scandal-plagued list of ministers. Well, Labor is fully committed to a genuine, powerful commission. We take our responsibility seriously.
We know the government has made some noises about a sham commission, but it's failed to even follow through on those. We've heard from members opposite in this debate this afternoon about how they're all in favour and there's some talking going on. Well, you're the government. If you're serious about this, get on with it and act now—give us a genuine, powerful national integrity commission. In fact, it's been almost two years since Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Attorney-General promised to have draft legislation ready before the end of 2019. We still haven't seen it—not even legislation for a sham commission. This government is too afraid to put up anything that would demonstrate that they are prepared to be held accountable and show integrity at this time of crisis in our country. It is a disgrace.
We've seen the ultimate failure of that lack of accountability and responsibility this week as the Prime Minister and his aged-care minister refused to take responsibility for what's happened in our aged-care homes. This is an insult to all the people in my community who are grieving the death of a relative or friend, to all the people here who've been lying awake at night worried about what is happening to their parents and to all the staff and healthcare professionals who've been doing all they can to take care of people in aged care at this time. We know now that this government had time to prepare, but they dropped the ball, as the royal commission has so clearly set out. They refuse to take any responsibility for it. They haven't told us how they'll make sure that it never happens again. We deserve better. We deserve a Prime Minister and a government who show responsibility and accountability and who have integrity. A national integrity commission with serious powers would be an excellent demonstration of their commitment to this.
I want to make it clear that I am a strong supporter of establishing a Commonwealth integrity commission. I look forward to the legislation imminently coming before this chamber, another excellent reform of the Morrison government. In the last week, we've seen one of the most prominent leaders of the opposition in Russia having to be evacuated from that nation and taken to Germany on suspicion of being poisoned, potentially for politically motivated reasons. There are certainly some countries in the world that don't get to do what the opposition in this country can do, which is come into this chamber, under the protection of parliamentary privilege, and assassinate the character of a member of the government, cast all sorts of aspersions against a person that they're too cowardly to do outside of this chamber, because they know it would be defamatory. In this great country of ours, our opposition can do that. That's one of the great fundamentals of our democracy—a democracy that's been in place since Federation. In the great traditions of the Westminster system, governments are held to account by the peoples' House of Representatives. That's a great thing that we celebrate.
The suggestion from Labor that there are some worst-in-the-world examples of corruption in this great country is complete and utter rubbish. I totally and fundamentally reject that assertion that's come across in the petty contributions that have been put forward by the Labor Party in this politically-motivated debate on a Thursday afternoon before we rise for the weekend.
We have committed to introducing a Commonwealth integrity commission, which we will be doing very shortly. It will be far superior to what we can glean was the intention of the Labor Party in what they said they would institute when they went to the last election. We're putting a further $89 million more into our integrity commission than what Labor intended to. That doesn't really come as much of a surprise to me, because, of course, a Shorten government would have wanted an underfunded and under-resourced corruption and integrity commission—what a great bullet we and the Australian people dodged there.
There's also the suggestion that the Labor Party have suddenly come up with the concept of having an integrity commission in this country. The concept has been around for a very long time. The Rudd government and the Gillard governments could have established a Commonwealth integrity commission but didn't. The Hawke government and the Keating government could have done that but, of course, they didn't. The Whitlam government could have done it. Imagine if the Whitlam government had established an ICAC. There would be a lot more people in jail, had the Whitlam government established a corruption body to oversee the performance of that government and what some of those ministers got up to in their three brief years of power.
We are taking the time to make sure that we bring forward legislation that is worthy of the very important task this new integrity body will have. We are resourcing this new integrity body to the standard that it should be resourced to, to ensure that, yes, we are identifying and catching and prosecuting people who are engaging in any form of corruption at a Commonwealth level. That's not to suggest that that isn't already occurring in this country. If there's evidence of corruption, there are a number of avenues that people have to raise with other integrity bodies and to, when evidence justifies, prosecute.
People have been convicted in this country many, many times in our history for corruption, but it is sensible and worthy of having a dedicated body, which most state jurisdictions now have in this country, which is why we made it very clear that we were supportive of establishing a Commonwealth integrity commission. But we will do it, like everything that this government does, sensibly. We will do it thoroughly and we will resource it properly. It won't be populist. It won't be about cheap headlines. It will be about making sure that we continue to increase the standards of integrity that we have in our government in this country, in our parliament and in our publicly-elected officials.
I am very proud, unlike the Labor Party, of the history in this country of transparency and of democracy. We are world leaders, and we are looked up to around the world for the standards that we have in this system. I concede, under both Labor and Liberal governments, I'd much rather be living in this country than any other comparable country around the world when it comes to our high standards of integrity. Those standards will be that little bit higher when we bring in the Commonwealth Integrity Commission. I look forward to supporting that legislation and being part of a government that leaves that lasting legacy in this country.