Media release 29th October 2019

Former integrity officials today launched 10 reform principles to strengthen accountability institutions, in the wake of ongoing attacks on the judiciary, the media, corruption commissions, and other important agencies.

Former judge Paul Stein AM QC, former Independent Security Legislation Monitor Bret Walker SC, former ABC journalist Quentin Dempster AM, and former counsel assisting NSW ICAC Geoffrey Watson SC have joined together to launch a report on the state of our accountability institutions and necessary reforms.

“The prosecution of journalists, the cutting of ICAC’s powers, and the personal attacks faced by senior integrity officials are all part of a bigger picture of our accountability institutions being undermined,” said Geoffrey Watson SC, former counsel assisting ICAC and Director of The Centre for Public Integrity.

“Accountability institutions ensure good governance and the rule of law. If these attacks continue the health of our democracy will be threatened,” Mr Watson said.

“Accountability institutions need ensured independence from government, secure funding, non-partisan merit based appointments and protection of journalists and whistle-blowers,” Chair of The Centre for Public Integrity Anthony Whealy QC said today.

“These reforms are now urgent to restore public trust and protect our institutions,” Mr Whealy said.

The report Protecting the integrity of our accountability institutions outlines the following reform principles:

  1. Independence from government
  2. Freedom from political attacks
    • Protection from political retribution
  3. Secure and sufficient funding
    • Multi-year funding provided
  4. Broad jurisdiction and strong powers
  5. Secure tenure of senior officials
  6. Non-partisan appointments
    • Merit based
    • Fair and transparent appointment processes
  7. Transparency and compliance
    • Public access to accountability institutions’ advice to government
    • Ability for accountability institutions to request progress reports from government on integrity recommendations
  8. Stronger recognition of the public benefit of advocacy as a charitable purpose
  9. Independent from commercial interests
    • Proper funding of public broadcasters
    • Diversity in media ownership to break current duopoly
    • Close the revolving door between big 4 consultancies and public service, and industry and regulators
  10. Mandatory reporting of public sector misconduct to a National Integrity Commission
    • Adequate protection of whistle-blowers
    • Retribution for failure to report to NIC