Wednesday, 21 October 2020
Questions without Notice
National Integrity Commission
I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. I can tell you one place it's not. It's not on the Labor website that had 'donate $5 to Labor' underneath, 'We need to do more to win back the trust of the Australian people.' That's not where it is. That was the Labor version of an integrity commission—
Honourable members interjecting—
Order, members on both sides!
Dr Chalmers interjecting—
Ms Plibersek interjecting—
Mr McCormack interjecting—
Unsurprisingly, it's on direct relevance. There was nothing about alternative policies, and being flippant about an integrity commission probably makes our point.
Opposition members interjecting—
Mr Dutton interjecting—
Order, members on my right and the Minister for Home Affairs! I will say to the Manager of Opposition Business that he's correct. There wasn't a reference to alternative policies. I'm also going to say that that question could have been ruled out if I took a strict interpretation of the standing orders. I don't need to detain the House by going through them all. I'm simply going to make the point that, for a question asked in that fashion, you cannot expect any other sort of response, really. If it's asked in that fashion, with that ironical expression, and it's asked where something is, I'm certainly going to allow the Attorney-General to address the question.
They don't get irony, unfortunately, because, if they did, they wouldn't have asked the question that way. In fact, the member for Isaacs put out an email, saying: 'Something must be done to restore the public's faith in government. We need your support to ensure that a national integrity commission gets off the ground. Will you pledge your support?' How were they to do that? With a red button donating $5 to the Labor Party! It is a very serious issue. In fact—
Dr Chalmers interjecting—
The next stage for the integrity commission will be a consultation phase. That will be detailed and it will be extensive. In fact, why is that necessary? Because it is a serious issue. As the member for Maribyrnong said, 'As you would appreciate, a reform of this magnitude is complex and would require extensive consultation and design work.' The fact that we chose not to conduct that consultation during the height of a global pandemic seemed to us to be a matter of some common sense. The member for Sydney was on Insiders on the weekend, and she made three statements about the integrity commission. Unfortunately, all of them were wrong. Every single one of them was wrong. In fact, one of the very important issues that we would need to consult on is the issue of retrospectivity—retrospectivity of the criminal law, retrospectivity of standards such as conduct. The member for Sydney said of our model, which we have been very clear about, 'It can't look at behaviour that has happened in the past.' Well, that is just wrong. It is just wrong. The issue of retrospectivity is clearly one that needs to be part of a very detailed consultation process.
To the credit of the Greens, they actually did bring a bill into parliament. It had a—remarkably, in our view—vague and low standard for corrupt conduct. It also believed that new criminal offences and new standards should be applied retrospectively. What's Labor's position on that issue? They said that that bill should not pass parliament, and voted for it. And that is what Labor's position is. Our position on the issue of retrospectivity is, I think, well-summarised in the words of the former Law Council of Australia president, who said:
… retrospective legislation directly undermines the rule of law, which requires that laws must be knowable and able to be obeyed.
Retrospective legislation is neither.
That is just one issue that requires consultation. This is not a game. This will be a very important structure that needs debate and consultation.