Public trust and confidence in our democratic institutions, especially
the federal parliament, is very low. It is crucial that we address both the
perception of corruption and actual risk of corruption. A recent poll commissioned
by the Australia Institute found that 80% of respondents were supportive of
establishing a federal anti-corruption commission.
Scandals continue to dog the federal parliament and public service.
There are many recent examples which give rise to the perception of corruption.
Investigation of these scandals, and the perception that they were investigated
rigorously, could have benefitted from a federal anti-corruption commission:
Both the Liberal and Labor parties accepted donations from compromised
Chinese Nationals after ASIO expressly asked them not to.
The Minister of Finance, Senator Mathias Cormann, signed a lease
over a building which a key crossbench Senator Bob Day owned – against the
Department of Finance's advice.
The Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce relocated an entire
department to his electorate with no compelling reason.
Liberal MP Stuart Robert went to China to seal a deal between the
Chinese government and a millionaire donor to the Liberal Party, Paul Marks
director of coal company, Nimrod Resources – which Stuart Robert also held
$45,000 was paid by the Australian Hotels and Hospitality
Association to the Menzies 200 Club, a fundraising vehicle linked to Member for
Menzies, Kevin Andrews, at the same time that Mr Andrews was personally
developing the government's gambling policy.
Former Speaker of the House Bronwyn Bishop spent $5000 on a
helicopter flight from Melbourne to Geelong when a train ride costs $12.
When Senator Sam Dastyari was state secretary, NSW Labor accepted
donations from a black market tobacco importer.
Senator Pauline Hanson put her face and party logo on a plane
that was gifted by a property developer, and One Nation travelled the country
in this plane which was never declared.
Brickworks donated hundreds of thousands of dollars before the
election to the Liberals, then were awarded a multi-million dollar government
contract from a clean energy scheme after that program had been closed down.
The Top Education Institute made a donation to cover Senator
Dastyari's travel budget overspend.
Former Small Business Minister, Bruce Billson, was getting paid a
salary by the Franchise Council of Australia, while still sitting as a Member
Fresh from negotiating the Chinese Free Trade Agreement, Minister
for Trade, Andrew Robb immediately commenced working for a billionaire closely
linked to the Chinese Communist Party, earning $880,000 a year.
Minister Barnaby Joyce appointed an irrigation lobbyist to the
Murray Darling Basin Authority, despite her being a vocal opponent of delivering
water into the river system.
Liberal MP for Swan, Steve Irons, charged taxpayers $2000 to
attend his own wedding and again flew up to the Gold Coast for activities which
included a round of golf.
Most of the existing functions of various anti-corruption bodies are
concerned with individual cases of personal fraud or misconduct. Most of the
inquiry was similarly concerned with such matters. However the public is also
concerned with systemic corruption across political institutions and the public
service, especially around political donations buying favour from ministers or
influencing party policy, and indirect payments by lobby groups to ensure
favourable outcomes from the incumbent government or policy decisions by a
major party. These concerns are not addressed by any existing anti-corruption
The committee’s report notes that 'Commonwealth agencies struggled to
explain to the committee how their individual roles and responsibilities
inter-connect to form a seamless Commonwealth government-wide approach to integrity
and corruption issues'.
This was noted in a number of submissions including from the Australia
Institute, who quotes Transparency International: 'the Commonwealth's present
arrangements are the result of decades of largely uncoordinated developments in
administrative law, criminal law and public sector management, together with
The Australia Institute concludes:
there are gaps in our current integrity system, with no body
currently able to investigate systemic corruption at a parliamentary or
ministerial level. Ongoing scandals at a federal level show that this systemic
corruption may be happening in our federal government, but we have no way of
knowing if this is the case.
The government's argument is that a new commission is not required
because our existing anti-corruption mechanisms are underpinned by a democratic
system of representative government and the separation of powers. However, the Law
Council of Australia notes:
it is well-established that corruption has the potential to
undermine democratic institutions. Therefore it cannot be assumed that
democratic institutions alone will insulate Australia from the impact of
corruption in the absence of a national strategy for addressing corruption.
There are legitimate concerns regarding balancing civil liberties with
extraordinary powers, the likes of which are held by state-based
anti-corruption bodies. The NSW Council for Civil Liberties considered this
balance and argued that:
the balance between greater public good and greater public
harm has shifted. In this evolving context, if the public interest is to be
protected against corruption, NSWCCL acknowledges that the establishment of
anti-corruption agencies equipped with extraordinary investigative powers—with
proper constraints and safeguards—is necessary and proportionate.
The Australian Greens recommend that the government begin work
immediately to establish a National Integrity Commission with broad
investigative powers to oversee the entire federal public service and Members
The Australian Greens recommend that any new body be empowered to
conduct public hearings where it is in the public's interest to do so.
Greens Democracy Spokesperson
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