Thursday, 25 February 2021
National Integrity Commission, Australian National Audit Office
Since this government was elected, Australia has become more corrupt. It's fallen in global rankings. You don't have to believe it from me; these are independently assessed league tables that measure all of the countries in the world for corruption through the Corruption Perceptions Index. Transparency International Australia's independent assessment shows that in 2012—the time of the last measure before the government came to office—we were the seventh least corrupt country in the world. In the eighth year of this government, we've slipped down those tables and we're now sitting at 11th. We actually came up one last year, but not because anything got any better; it was because Iceland got worse.
In the eighth year of the Liberal government, despite this, we've still got no national integrity commission. The government at every turn have stalled, they've opposed, they've dissembled, they've dodged and they've weaved. It's no wonder, though, when you think about the list of rorts, waste and corruption that they're trying to hide. I'll read out some comments from former Liberal Party leader John Hewson. He's pointed out that the government is cheating on expenses and electoral allowances; the bending of entitlement rules using charter and VIP aircraft, from Bronwyn Bishop's helicopter to Mathias Cormann's VIP aircraft to campaign for a new job; the rorting of grants for party political advantage, like sports rorts, regional jobs rorts and community safety rorts we've now learnt of, from 'VolderRort' himself; paying $30 million for the Western Sydney Airport land deal, which was only worth $3 million; the stacking of COVID-19 recovery advisory groups with Liberal Party mates and vested interests; and the politicisation and erosion of the Public Service, appointing the Prime Minister's mates to all the best jobs. But worse than doing nothing is the attack that the government are making on the one strong independent watchdog that exists today in the system: the independent Auditor-General.
The Auditor-General scrutinises the executive on behalf of the parliament and people of Australia, ensuring value for money and ethical, efficient and effective expenditure of taxpayer funds. Since this government was elected, by the end of these forward estimates, there will be a 22.1 per cent cut to the funding of the Auditor-General in real terms. That's analysis which has been published by the Parliamentary Library.
We learnt last Friday, hearing directly from the Auditor-General, of the true impact of those cuts. We're about to see a drop in the number of performance audits that the Auditor-General can complete, from an average of about 52 a year before the government came to office to 36 a year. That means sports rorts, airport land rorts and billions of dollars of Defence blowouts will also not be uncovered and revealed. The public sector should be subject to that kind of scrutiny. Taxpayers should expect it. Even more concerning, perhaps, was the Auditor-General saying in public that he was now 'uncomfortable' with the level of risk tolerance that he was forced to bare in financial statement auditing because of the government cuts. It's about time they restored the funding to the Auditor-General and introduced a national integrity commission.