A national anti-corruption body
Over the course of the inquiry, several submitters, including the Transparency
International Australia (TIA), the Law Council of Australia (Law Council) and the
Accountability Round Table (ART) supported the establishment of a federal
anti-corruption agency, with coverage of the entire Commonwealth Government,
including members of the judiciary and Members of Parliament.
The existing Commonwealth approach to anti-corruption was described in
the Attorney-General's Department's submission in the following terms:
The Australian Government’s approach to preventing corruption
is multi‑faceted and diverse. Under this approach, Australia’s strong
constitutional foundation, which establishes the separation of powers and
guarantees the rule of law, is complemented by Australia’s multi-agency
approach, in which a number of Commonwealth agencies play a role in combating
corruption by promoting accountability, transparency and effective enforcement.
This holistic approach to anti-corruption includes standards and oversight,
detection and investigation, prosecution and international cooperation.
The agencies which contribute to combating corruption at the
Commonwealth level include:
Australian National Audit Office
Australian Crime Commission
Australian Federal Police
Australian Public Service Commissioner
Australian Securities and Investment Commission
Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)
Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (and Austrade)
Department of Finance and Deregulation
Inspector General of Intelligence and Security
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
Parliamentary Services Commissioner
The Law Council's submission provides an overview of previous
parliamentary committee considerations of the establishment of a national
anti-corruption body. The Law Council noted that back in 2011 it argued that 'parliamentary
consideration of the arguments for and against a federal anti-corruption agency
would be a useful exercise.'
It then noted this committee's previous recommendation for a review of
the Commonwealth integrity system, particularly examining the merits of establishing
a Commonwealth integrity commission with anti-corruption oversight of all
Commonwealth public sector agencies.
The former Government noted this recommendation and stated that 'on the
available evidence there is no convincing case for the establishment of a
single overarching integrity commission.'
The Law Council's submission also acknowledges a House of
Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs
recommendation for a Parliamentary Joint Select Committee to 'investigate the
feasibility and cost of establishing [a federal anti-corruption body], taking
into account the threshold issue of desirability of such a commission.'
The TIA advocated for a more comprehensive integrity and anti-corruption
framework across the Commonwealth. Its submission expresses 'continued concern
that the Australian Government's multi-agency approach to promoting integrity
and fighting corruption is fragmented and misconceived.'
The ART argued that ACLEI's jurisdiction should be expanded, 'to provide
a single national anti-corruption and malpractice body with a jurisdiction
giving it comprehensive coverage of the whole Commonwealth sector.'
ACLEI noted that further proposals to extend its jurisdiction, 'would
need to balance any likely strategic gains to the integrity system against
possible detriment to ACLEI's operational effectiveness.
These proposals would also require consideration of funding implications,
ACLEI's physical presence across the Commonwealth, and significant examination
of ACLEI's statutory and policy underpinnings.
In this report the committee has considered the question of expanding
ACLEI's jurisdiction with regards to a number of agencies, and in doing so has
canvassed many of the arguments for and against extending ACLEI's jurisdiction.
While the committee appreciates the arguments put by submitters in
favour of a wholesale increase in ACLEI jurisdiction, the committee is of the
view that it is preferable for ACLEI to retain its present focus on agencies
with law enforcement functions rather than being expanded across the entire
Commonwealth. ACLEI's current alignment is rightly targeted towards agencies
which are likely to experience higher corruption risks through infiltration by
serious and organised criminal groups.
The committee is mindful of the risks of expanding ACLEI's jurisdiction
too quickly, and believes that it should predominantly maintain its current Commonwealth
law enforcement focus. The stepwise increase of ACLEI's jurisdiction, as
necessary, to law-enforcement and related agencies is an approach which the
committee believes provides the greatest benefits for both ACLEI and the
agencies it oversees.
Nevertheless, although the committee notes that Australia is generally
regarded as one of the least corrupt countries in the world,
the committee is not opposed to calls for the further examination of advantages
and disadvantages of a broad-based federal anti‑corruption agency.
Russell Matheson MP
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