Senate debates

Tuesday, 30 November 2021


Consideration of Legislation

12:15 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

What did we just hear: a 'political witch-hunt'? Last week it was the 'Spanish Inquisition'. I think the Prime Minister called it a 'kangaroo court'. This government is running scared from an integrity commission with teeth, because they know that half of their cabinet have been embroiled in integrity scandals of one form or another and that a corruption watchdog with teeth might cause them a spot of bother. That's why we haven't seen the government's version of an integrity commission. I don't think the Prime Minister ever intended to follow through on his pre-election promise last election to deliver an integrity commission, because you can't believe a word he says. Once again this is a failure to follow through on a commitment. I think we're back in the 'non-core promise' days of John Howard.

The Centre for Public Integrity have looked at all of the various models and found that the government's version is the weakest of all existing corruption watchdogs and the weakest of all proposed models. They found that the Greens' version was the strongest. Our bill, I might add, passed the Senate two years ago. It is the most progressed integrity commission this parliament has and, if the Prime Minister had had the guts to bring it on for debate and a vote in the House, we could have had a corruption watchdog two years ago.

There's a reason he's not bringing it on. He knows half his cabinet would be embroiled in it. He would rather have a watchdog that is in fact toothless and asleep, that commentators have described as 'a protection racket' for MPs. Now they're trying to shift the blame, saying that they're too scared to bring in their own bill because it might not get passed. Sorry, but this is a level of ridiculousness I didn't expect. But here we are.

We have a strong bill, which has passed the Senate. We have a number of Independents who have drafted their own strong bills, very similar to our bill. We don't mind whose name is on the bill, as long as it has teeth, is independent, can hold public hearings and has a genuinely dissuasive effect on corruption. So we welcome the interventions by the Independents and smaller parties in this space. The Greens have been pushing for a corruption watchdog since 2009 federally. We remain the final jurisdiction that doesn't have one; every other state and territory has one. We've needed one since long before 2009, but it took the Prime Minister until three years ago to agree this wasn't a niche issue. Yet we've seen no progress since then. In fact, the minister belled the cat over the weekend on ABC's Insidersthere have now been at least three rounds of consultation, but this has not resulted in any change to the government's bill. They are using sham consultation as a delay tactic. They have no intention of strengthening their weak model, because they don't want a corruption watchdog to work; it would embroil half their cabinet.

I don't think we will see this government's bill and I don't think they will bring on my bill for debate in the House. The bravery of Helen Haines and Bridget Archer last week in the House unfortunately failed on a technicality. This government is in the minority in blocking a corruption watchdog. Many other people in this place want one. It's just One Nation and the coalition that are standing in the way of a watchdog with teeth.

Initially, my bill passed because One Nation abstained. Since then, we've seen that One Nation don't want my bill brought on in the House, and they now don't even want Senator Patrick's bill debated nor that of Helen Haines, the member for Indi. I don't know what cosy deal One Nation have done with the coalition. They've certainly done many a deal in years gone by and they are effectively just a rubber stamp for this coalition's awful agenda. But the Australian people deserve better. They deserve a corruption watchdog with teeth and they deserve a system that isn't corrupt. They deserve a parliament that works in their interests, that isn't dominated and influenced by corporate donors and vested interests and that cleans up the reasons for corruption. They deserve a parliament that ends the big money that's been running this show, that stops the revolving door of lobbyists and that acts based on science, based on the public interest and based on the interests of the community. It is not too much to ask. The people deserve a corruption watchdog and, even more than that, a system that isn't corrupt. Let's vote for that. Let's put the Greens in the balance of power to deliver that.


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