Senate debates

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


National Integrity Commission Bill 2013; Second Reading

3:47 pm

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I present the explanatory memoranda and move:

  That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

The speech read as follows—

This bill was introduced by the Australian Greens in both the 42nd and 43rd Parliaments. Since the original introduction by former Senator Bob Brown, all the states have now developed and implemented independent anti-corruption commissions. The overwhelming evidence of these culture-changing institutions has reinforced the necessity for such a body to be established at the commonwealth level.

The federal Parliament cannot end the 44th session remaining as the only jurisdiction left unchecked against the very real threat of internal corruption or maladministration across the federal public service.

This bill will provide the infrastructure to challenge corruption by establishing the National Integrity Commission as an independent statutory agency. It establishes three co-dependent offices; the National Office of Integrity Commissioner, based largely on the successful NSW Independent Commission against Corruption model. It would absorb the existing Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) and create a new Office of the Independent Parliamentary Adviser to advise MPs and Ministers on entitlements claims and the ethical running of their office that the public rightly expects. The adviser will also be tasked with developing a legally binding code of conduct for MPs for the Parliament to adopt.

The National Office of Integrity Commissioner will actively prevent and investigate misconduct and corruption in all Commonwealth departments, agencies, federal parliamentarians and their staff. This will fill the largest gap in our country's anti-corruption framework. Its powers are based largely on provisions in the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006.

It will focus on corruption in relation to public officials and Commonwealth agencies and has full investigative powers, including conducting public and private hearings and summoning any person or agency to produce documents and appear before the Commissioner. It can conduct investigations, apply for and execute search warrants and hold public inquiries. Importantly the bill provides the capacity for the Commissioner to investigate cases where corrupt conduct is foreseeable, making the Office's role proactive in addressing corruption.

The National Integrity Commission will operate in the federal jurisdiction and will not replace or over-ride state legislation. The Bill provides for the ACT and Northern Territory to contract the National Integrity Commission to operate in respect of their territories, in the same way that the Commonwealth Ombudsman acts as the ACT Ombudsman.

The second office in the National Integrity Commission is the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner focusing on federal law enforcement agencies in accordance with the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006. It will continue to have the functions and powers conferred under that Act.

Finally, the Parliamentary Adviser will put an end to the current shambles surrounding the claiming of electoral entitlements for personal benefit. Even with the recently announced minor adjustments, an MP is still required to navigate the ambiguity. An independent third party is best placed to ensure consistency of entitlements claims. As we have seen, the advice from the Department of Finance leaves it largely to the discretion of the politician. The continuing lack of clarity, now with a 25% loading penalty means that impartial assistance for parliamentarians is even more necessary to restore public respect and confidence.

In summary, this Bill provides the legislative framework for comprehensive prevention of corruption and misconduct in the federal public service. It fills the most glaring defects of our governance framework and it will provide the public with an institution it can rely upon to ensure the highest standards of public administration now and into the future.

I therefore commend this Bill to the Senate.

Debate adjourned.


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