Senate debates

Tuesday, 29 November 2022


National Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2022, National Anti-Corruption Commission (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2022; In Committee

5:49 pm

Photo of David ShoebridgeDavid Shoebridge (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

That would have to be some of the most balderdash, rubbish reading of how this bill works that I've ever heard! It does the minister no credit to deliberately, or perhaps 'accidentally', totally misrepresent how the bill works in practice. All of the elements the minister spoke about will be considered separately already, and are required to be considered separately by the commission when it's working out whether or not a hearing is in the public interest. So all those matters are already considered, and appropriately considered. The checks and balances are in place: no trial will be prejudiced and national security information, although extremely broadly defined, will be protected. All of those matters are already covered by the commission when considering the public interest.

Assume, on this bill's drafting, that the commissioner forms the view: 'Yes, I've considered that. All those elements are sorted, nothing's going to go wrong and it's in the public interest that we have public hearings. We absolutely want to do this. It's absolutely, 100 per cent in the public interest.' But then he says, 'Well, actually, we can't satisfy exceptional circumstances.' So all the protections are in place and it's clearly in the public interest to have a public hearing, but the government has decided—whether or not it's through a deal with the coalition or not; I suspect it is—that they want to bind the commission's hands and say, 'Even if it's in the public interest, even if all of those matters are protected, you still can't do it unless there's exceptional circumstances.'

We know from case law in Victoria that exceptional circumstances means what it says: exceptional. So there's a real doubt that any of the run-of-the-mill, ugly corruption that we've seen time and time again in the states and territories, and in this place, will get a public viewing, because they can't meet exceptional circumstances. This is not helping the commission; this is designed deliberately to tie its hands.


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