Monday, 9 November 2020
National Integrity Commission Bill 2018 (No. 2)
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) 9 September 2020 marked one year since the Senate passed the Australian Greens' National Integrity Commission Bill 2018 (No. 2) to establish a strong, independent Federal corruption watchdog,
(ii) polls consistently show that the majority of Australians support the establishment of a strong national anti-corruption body,
(iii) the Government has not brought the Greens' bill on for debate in the House of Representatives, and
(iv) despite public consultation ending more than 18 months ago, the Government's exposure draft Commonwealth Integrity Commission Bill fails to address many concerns raised during consultation; and
(b) further notes that an effective anti-corruption body must include the following features:
(i) broad jurisdiction to investigate corrupt conduct within the public sector,
(ii) strong investigative powers,
(iii) the ability to hold public hearings where this is in the public interest,
(iv) the ability to commence investigations independently or based on tip-offs from the public,
(v) adequate and secure funding,
(vi) the ability to publicly report outcomes of investigations and refer potential criminal matters to the Director of Public Prosecutions,
(vii) oversight by a multi-party parliamentary committee, including the appointment of commissioners, and
(viii) investigations subject to procedural fairness, and findings open to judicial review.
The Morrison government is continuing to deliver on its commitment to establish the Commonwealth Integrity Commission. On 2 November the government released exposure draft legislation for the CIC. Nationwide consultation on the legislation will occur until March 2021. The government's draft legislation is properly designed and properly funded. There has been $106.7 million in new funding allocated to the CIC, which will have powers stronger than a royal commission. The CIC will have broad jurisdiction over the public sector, including members of parliament, and will lead Australia's successful multiagency anticorruption framework. By comparison, the Greens' National Integrity Commission Bill 2018 (No. 2) has fundamental flaws that could result in wasteful duplication and individual injustices. The bill was not supported by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee when it considered the bill in April 2019.
I support this motion concerning the need to create a credible and effective integrity commission. The integrity commission, once established, must offer the features as identified by the Centre for Public Integrity, which I firmly support. I've also had the opportunity to see the government's recently released draft Commonwealth Integrity Commission bill, and I note that in its present state it requires considerable amendment prior to receiving full support.
A sound integrity commission would maintain a broad jurisdiction to investigate corrupt conduct within the public sector with strong investigative powers. It should be empowered to hold public hearings whenever it is in the public interest to do so. This is fundamental to the operations of an effective integrity commission. The commission should be able to investigate corruption independently, on its own initiative, even if that's based on tip-offs from the public, and the referral process should be broad. There should be no limitations on the possible findings of corrupt conduct of parliamentarians or public servants. The bill must be able to operate retrospectively so as to deal with recent alleged anomalies in the conduct of persons managing the Great Barrier Reef fund and Murray-Darling water buybacks. (Time expired)