Media release 2nd November
Analysis by the Centre for Public Integrity of the Government’s Commonwealth Integrity Commission Bill finds that while it has promised an organisation “with greater powers than a Royal Commission”, the reality is that what is has proposed is an organisation that is not fit for purpose.
The following aspects of the Bill need to be remedied:
· No public hearings may be held in respect of public sector corruption;
· The definition of corrupt conduct is too narrow. It excludes anyone outside the public sector who dishonestly or improperly influences or attempts to influence the probity and efficacy of public decision-making. This is not the case in most state jurisdictions;
· The threshold for a referral is too high. Public sector corruption can be investigated only where there is a reasonable suspicion that at least one of a number of listed offences has been or is being committed;
· In the case of the public sector and parliamentarians, the making of referrals is significantly circumscribed;
· The Commission can only investigate on its own motion in the case of law enforcement corruption;
· The Bill would not operate retrospectively;
· There may be no findings of corrupt conduct for parliamentarians or public servants in any final report; and
· There is provision under s 270 for a certification process which may prevent the Integrity Commissioner and Inspector General from accessing certain information certified by the Attorney-General. This may cover an extremely broad category of information.
Retired Victorian Supreme Court judge and director of the Centre for Public Integrity Stephen Charles AO QC said: “This is not a corruption commission, it is designed to protect parliamentarians and senior public servants from investigation.”
Barrister and director of the Centre for Public Integrity Geoffrey Watson SC said today: “This is a sham – it is designed to cover up corruption, not expose it”
“The absence of retrospectively means Australians will never find out what really happened with the Great Barrier Reef fund, with the so-called sports-rorts program, or with the Murray-Darling water buybacks.”
“The flaws are obvious and they know it.” said Mr Watson.