Senate debates

Thursday, 9 February 2017


National Integrity Commission Bill 2013; Second Reading

9:34 am

Photo of Scott LudlamScott Ludlam (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

because in WA we know that vested interest groups and wealthy powerbrokers have been able to undermine and influence our democratic system. It is one of the reasons people are fleeing the major parties in droves, including your party, Senator Macdonald. I do not know whether you snoozed through that part of the memo, but you lot are really on the nose, and confidence in government, confidence in the Liberal and National parties, is at an all-time low.

For example, there is the aggressive attack that the mining lobby has thrown into the field against the proposal to increase royalties in Western Australia. The mining industry wields extraordinary power. We saw that in the way that they damaged and ultimately destroyed the prime ministership of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Meanwhile, the government are abusing freedom-of-information requests; they hide behind commercial-in-confidence excuses to keep out of the public eye these slimy deals that they make.

The Greens believe that a resilient democracy depends on all levels of government being transparent about how these decisions are made. That includes this tier of government. I am looking forward to coalition spokespeople standing up to tell us why there is nothing to see here and why they do not feel the need for an anticorruption watchdog at a Commonwealth level. I am really looking forward to that. Please go ahead, those on the coalition side—because I understand that, after 20 years of campaigning by the Australian Greens, the Labor Party ship, like that oil tanker at sea, may be slowly turning.

I remember being told by the coalition side when we were debating mandatory data retention that, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. Do you remember that? Anybody complaining about overwhelmingly intrusive government surveillance was told, 'If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.' I think at a personal level, as far as personal privacy is concerned, that argument is completely hollow but, in terms of powerful institutions and in terms of governments writing cheques for billions of dollars at a time to their mates in the construction industry, to oil and gas companies, to engineering companies and to developers, what is it that you have to fear?

I am reasonably sure that when you stand up and try to run counterarguments to this incredibly sensible and longstanding proposal by Senator Rhiannon you are going to tell us that you have nothing to hide. Well then let us see. Let us get these cards on the table. Let us have a national anticorruption watchdog to do the kind of job that is being done in New South Wales and has done so much good, not necessarily to restore confidence in politics and the rule of law but at least to raise the bar to corruption and to increase transparency so that people doing these slimy deals behind closed doors are aware that there may be some consequences. It is about time that those consequences fell due at a Commonwealth level.


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