Senate debates

Tuesday, 29 November 2022


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

12:58 pm

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

At this stage, I move Greens amendment (2) on sheet 1730:

(2) Clause 8, page 15 (line 20), at the end of subclause (1), add:

; (e) any conduct of a public official in that capacity that constitutes, involves or is engaged in for the purpose of corruption of any other kind.

I'll speak to Greens amendments (1) and (3) at the same time, because that might be convenient.

Amendment (2) seeks to re-insert a provision that was stripped out by the other place in relation to the definition of 'corruption' found in section 8 of the bill. There was some discussion about this during the committee hearing in relation to the bill, and there were a minority of participants in that committee inquiry—the Queensland Bar Association and the South Australian Bar Association—who were anxious about what was then section 8(1)(e) of the bill. It had an extended definition of corruption for the purposes of the jurisdiction of the NACC, which included any conduct of a public official in that capacity which constitutes, involves or is engaged in for the purpose of corruption of any other kind. The concern that was raised by a minority of participants in the inquiry was that that was somehow too broad.

The Greens simply don't accept that, and I know that a number of other crossbench members, in the other place in particular, oppose the stripping out of that. That's for the very good reason that the argument that it's too broad fails to engage with how this provision fits within the bill. First of all, for this provision to be engaged, the NACC have to be satisfied that what they're looking at is corruption. Corruption has a well-understood definition and meaning and, as we've seen just from the last week in federal politics, politicians can keep coming up with new and novel ways to betray the public trust. We saw that in the report that was released on Friday by the honourable former Justice Bell in relation to the former Prime Minister, where we saw an example of what I would say is corrupt conduct that no-one would have thought possible 12 months ago. The now former Prime Minister sought to have multiple ministerial appointments and kept that secret from the public, the parliament and even his own colleagues: who would have thought that kind of corruption could have been cooked up 12 months ago?

We've also seen in the last week the conduct of another member of the other place exposed as being, basically, an agent for sale—seeking to lobby in his role as a backbencher for whoever was willing to put cash in his tin. He has been exposed for doing that. Maybe that kind of appalling behaviour is more predictable. But we can see, just from the last week, how politicians keep coming up with new and novel ways to corrupt this parliament and to engage in corrupt conduct. So of course we need a broad definition going forward, because heaven knows what they'll come up with next to try to corrupt the public interest.

Further: for this clause to be engaged the NACC also has to be satisfied that it's not just corruption but serious or repeated corruption. So the question we ask of both the government and the opposition is: what kind of serious or repeated corruption do you not want the NACC to look at? That's the ultimate test here. If they oppose reinserting this subsection 8(1)(e) then they're saying that there's some serious or repeated corruption that they don't want the National Anti-Corruption Commission to have jurisdiction in relation to. If that's so, tell us what it is. Tell us what that corruption is, because we don't think we should be shutting the gates and closing the categories of corruption. That's because we know how in the past politicians have kept coming up with new and novel ways to corrupt parliament, to corrupt government and to betray the public interest.


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