By Christopher Knaus, originally published in the Guardian 9th July 2021.
The Coalition’s proposed federal anti-corruption body would have no power to investigate dozens of integrity, expense and pork-barrelling controversiesthat havecome to light in recent years, the Guardian has found.
An analysis of 40 political controversies, conducted jointly by Guardian Australia and the Centre for Public Integrity, has found that all but two would fall well short of the threshold the proposed body requires to begin an investigation.
The Commonwealth Integrity Commission – described by the government as a “centralised, specialist centre investigating corruption in the public sector” – would be unable to investigate the recent car park rorts or sports rorts affairs, despite evidence that taxpayers’ money was being redirected for political gain.
Nor would it be able to investigate a string of questions about expense claims or concerns over the provision of flights to former finance minister Mathias Cormann by the Liberal donor and government contractor Helloworld. The awarding of contracts to Liberal-linked firms would also avoid the body’s scrutiny, as would the infamous Parakeelia, Paladin, and Nimrod Resources scandals.
Under the draft legislation, the CIC needs to have a “reasonable suspicion” that a listed criminal offence has been committed before it can even begin investigating.
The Centre for Public Integrity says it is this high bar that would stymie the CIC’s attempts to examine most of the controversies identified by the Guardian.
“The government’s proposed CIC will not be able to do its job – the threshold is too high to begin investigations, and the public is left in the dark without open hearings or public reporting,” said Anthony Whealy QC, chair of the Centre for Public Integrity.
“Public trust will continue to fall while scandal after scandal is met with no real consequence.”
Full story and analysis in the Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/jul/09/coalitions-proposed-anti-corruption-commission-would-have-no-power-to-investigate-recent-controversies