Wednesday, 28 September 2022
Questions without Notice
National Anti-Corruption Commission
Honourable senators interjecting—
I thank Senator O'Neill for her question and for her interest in these matters, which are important to the nation and important to the government. They are important to the parliament. Today is an important day because we introduced into the House the first government bill to establish the National Anti-Corruption Commission. It is a bill which delivers on a key election commitment first made prior to the 2019 election to establish a powerful and independent anticorruption body at the federal level. It is a watchdog with teeth, and this is a commitment that we have consistently advocated for and today are delivering.
The former government, having made their own pledge to introduce a federal anticorruption body in December 2018, never even got to the stage of introducing a bill. The federal government is the last jurisdiction in this country not to have an anticorruption commission, and we all know it is past time for that to be fixed. Those of us on this side of the chamber are proud that the Albanese Labor government is doing just that.
Today's bill is a product of an extraordinary amount of work and it is being shaped by constructive consultation with experts and with members of the House and Senate. It aims to learn the lessons from existing anticorruption commissions across the nation, balancing the need for transparency with the need to prevent undue damage to reputation. The ultimate aim of this body, once established, is both to prevent and to expose corruption at the federal level. The Australian people sent a clear message at the last election that this is what they want. It is now incumbent upon this parliament to deliver.
Shortly after introducing the bill this morning, the Attorney-General moved to establish a select committee of both houses to scrutinise the bill. We welcome that scrutiny and the dialogue which will flow from it, reflecting the government's genuine desire for this bill to have support across the parliament. There is no more important task for those of us elected to this place than maintaining the trust placed in us by the Australian people, and today's bill is an important part of that task.
I'm delighted to ask these questions on this very historic day when Labor is delivering on a very significant commitment. How will the National Anti-Corruption Commission prevent and expose corruption at the federal level?
I thank Senator O'Neill for her supplementary question. The National Anti-Corruption Commission established by the bill will be strong and it will be independent. It will have broad jurisdiction to investigate serious or systemic corrupt conduct across the Commonwealth public sector. It will have the power to investigate ministers, parliamentarians and their staff, statutory officeholders, employees of all government entities and contractors. It will have discretion to commence inquiries on its own initiative or in response to referrals from anyone, including members of the public and whistleblowers. Referrals will be able to be anonymous. It will be able to investigate both criminal and noncriminal corrupt conduct, and conduct occurring before or after its establishment. And it will have the discretion to hold public hearings. It will also have a mandate to prevent corruption and to educate Australians about corruption. This will be a significant reform for the nation, and it is a necessary part of rebuilding Australian people's trust in institutions, including in this parliament.
An opposition senator interjecting—
And, yes, it may be that Senator Cash might like to add to my remarks. We do recall that those opposite announced a national integrity body in December 2018, but they never delivered. They never delivered. In fact, one of the more interesting things to watch during the election campaign was Mr Morrison trying to blame everybody else—that's a change!—for his failure to introduce his own bill.
Those opposite didn't even get to the stage of introducing the bill because they were apparently too scared the parliament wouldn't support it. It was everybody else's fault again. It really does show how little they were prepared to work to demonstrate integrity. It shows how little they cared about integrity in government.
Well, we will deliver on this promise and we will keep faith with the Australian people, who told all of us very clearly at the last election that this was what they wanted. Today we have delivered on our pledge for a strong and independent National Anti-Corruption Commission. I invite those opposite to prove themselves. (Time expired)