AEC figures reveal massive donations to political parties

By Charis Chang, originally published 3rd February on Pauline Hanson’s One Nation raised more than $3 million to help fund her election campaign last year — just $76,183 less than the National Party of Australia. According to Australian Electoral Commission figures released today, One Nation raised $3,023,689 during the 2018-19 financial year, compared to… Read More

Sports rorts expose Coalition’s tame corruption watchdog plan

By Anthony Whealy, originally published in the Australian Financial Review 22nd January 2020. The ‘Sport’s Rort’ scandal reflects a new low in our political system. Bridget McKenzie’s actions were much worse than mere pork-barrelling, detestable though that practice is. Here, there was a large scale program appropriately informed by a carefully laid out assessment and… Read More

Bridget McKenzie may have breached ministerial standards: former Supreme Court justice

By Katie Burgess, originally published in the Canberra Times 22 January 2020. Bridget McKenzie may have breached ministerial standards by targeting marginal electorates through a $100 million sports grants program, a former Supreme Court justice says. Senior members of the Morrison government are standing by Senator McKenzie, after an audit last week revealed her office… Read More

ABC PM: Federal ICAC would investigate sports grants affair, former NSW auditor-general says

Published ABC PM 20th January 2020. A federal independent commission against corruption would get to the bottom of the sports grants scandal, according to Tony Harris, who was the auditor-general of NSW for seven years. Key points The Federal Government awarded $100 million of sports grants just prior to the election Former NSW auditor-general Tony… Read More

Opinion: McKenzie scandal highlights need for a national integrity commission

By Hannah Aulby, originally published in the Canberra Times on 21st January 2020. The ability for Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie to use public money for partisan political gains, and face no official retribution, highlights serious flaws in our accountability system. The response to the findings of the Australian National Audit Office has been pretty… Read More

Opinion: Your government does not want corruption investigated

Opinion piece by Stephen Charles, published in the Sydney Morning Herald 20th January 2020. The sports grant rort uncovered by the Australian National Audit Office last week is far worse than traditional pork-barrelling and equates to political corruption. It again underlines the urgent need for a strong and independent national integrity commission to hold politicians… Read More

AFR: The $500,000 sports grant that failed to save Abbott

By Andrew Tillet and Patrick Durkin. Originally published in the Australian Financial Review on 18th January 2020. Mosman Rowing Club received $500,000 in taxpayer funding under the Morrison government’s discredited sporting grants program in a last-ditch but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to save Tony Abbott’s political career. Mr Abbott announced that the club had received the… Read More

ABC PM: ‘Tilting the electoral playing field’: former judge on McKenzie grants

Interview on ABC PM with Linda Mottram 17th January 2020. A senior legal voice says Federal Minister Bridget McKenzie has clearly engaged in corruption, if it is the case that she used sports funding grants prior to the last election to tilt the electoral playing field in the Coalition’s favour. Former judge, Stephen Charles QC,… Read More

Ex-DPP blasts sports grants as ‘pork barrelling of the worst kind’

By Katie Burgess, originally published in Canberra Times 17th January 2020. Nationals leader Michael McCormack is standing by his deputy Bridget McKenzie, as a former director of public prosecutions says her misuse of sports grants highlights the need for a federal integrity commission. Senator McKenzie flatly rejected calls to resign on Thursday, after a damning… Read More

PM’s phone call to police chief an inappropriate attempt to use position, former top judge says

By Chris Knaus, originally published in The Guardian 28th November 2019. Former anti-corruption commissioner and senior judge David Ipp says Scott Morrison’s phone call to the New South Wales police chief appears to be an inappropriate attempt to use his position to make a political decision. Morrison came under fire on Wednesday for calling NSW… Read More

Scott Morrison under fire over phone call to police commissioner

By David Crowe, originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald 27th November 2019. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been accused of interfering in a police investigation into Energy Minister Angus Taylor amid a political storm over his judgement in telephoning the NSW police commissioner about the matter. Mr Morrison insisted he had done nothing wrong… Read More

Invisible donors: Big political spenders just the tip of the iceberg

By Katie Burgess, originally published in The Canberra Times 5th November 2019. Billionaires bankrolled high-profile independents including Canberra’s Anthony Pesec ahead of the May federal election, new electoral disclosures show. But most donors remain invisible, because of the high disclosure threshold. Independents received around $4.7 million in donations from more than 5500 donors, election disclosure… Read More

RN Breakfast: Queensland crackdown on election donations

Interview by Hamish McDonald, producer Cathy Van Extel, ABC RN Breakfast 30th October 2019. Queensland is set to implement the toughest electoral donation caps and spending limits in the country. Next month the Palaszczuk Government will introduce a bill into State Parliament, with spending caps to take effect in time for next year’s state election.… Read More

Public servants should be punished for failing to report misconduct, legal experts say

By Chris Knaus, originally published in the Guardian 30th October 2019. Public servants should be legally compelled to report misconduct and face punishment for failing to do so, a group of former judges and integrity experts say. The recommendation is one of a series of urgent reforms needed to improve government integrity, strengthen accountability bodies… Read More

‘It is all part of the same disease’: media and other key institutions under threat

By Nick O’Malley, originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 29th October 2019. The prosecution of journalists, cuts to the ABC budget and the appointment of “dud” politically connected officials to roles in key agencies present an unprecedented threat to democracy in Australia. “Media provides crucial accountability and transparency functions,” said a report by… Read More

Government caving in to industry pressure over planning commission review, say former ICAC bosses

By Michaela Whitbourn and Megan Gorrey, originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald 21st October 2019 Former commissioners of the state’s anti-corruption agency have accused the Berejiklian government of caving in to mining industry pressure by holding a review into the future of the independent consent authority for major projects in NSW. Planning Minister Rob… Read More

NSW Minerals Council pressured ‘publicly and privately’ for review of planning body

By Christopher Knaus, originally published in the Guardian 21st October 2019 The head of New South Wales’s mining lobby said his group had “publicly and privately” pressured government to review the state’s independent planning body after it blocked a new coalmine on environmental grounds, an anti-corruption probe has heard. The NSW Minerals Council chief executive,… Read More

Ex-judges lay out blueprint for improving political integrity

Originally published by Chris Knaus in the Guardian 18th October A group of ex-judges, anti-corruption commissioners, and experts have laid out a blueprint for improving political and democratic integrity in the wake of this year’s election. The Centre for Public Integrity used a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters to argue there… Read More

Former Supreme Court Justice says Australians deserve much better when it comes to standards of political integrity

Interview on ABC News Radio Friday 18th October – listen here Former judges and legal experts are calling for caps on electoral expenditure, real time disclosure of large donations, and tighter rules around around former MPs becoming lobbyists for industry. The Centre for Public Integrity has identified those as key among a raft of reforms… Read More

Opinion: Our political donations and lobbying systems are out of control

By Anthony Whealy, originally published in the Guardian 7th October 2019 The revelation that 13 companies failed to declare sizeable donations to the major political parties when seeking approval to develop property in New South Wales throws up very serious concerns. Since 2008, NSW law has required the public disclosure of donations or gifts when… Read More

RN Breakfast: Influence of political donations “out of control”- Anthony Whealy

RN Breakfast 24th September – interview link here The political donation scandals which have tainted both major parties have refocussed attention on the way that money can buy undue influence in Australian politics. A group of former senior judges and anti-corruption experts have drawn up a blueprint to try to restore public trust, both in… Read More

ICAC and the federal watchdog

By Mike Seccombe, originally published in The Saturday Paper 7th September 2019. It’s been a wild fortnight at the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). A hundred thousand dollars in an Aldi shopping bag, personally delivered to NSW Labor Party headquarters by a property developer who is now banned from Australia on ASIO… Read More

The questions ICAC isn’t asking

Opinion piece by Neil Chenoweth originally published in the Australian Financial Review 7th September 2019. The disconcerting feature of NSW’s remade anti-corruption body, as it tackles its first major donations scandal, is its determined lack of curiosity. There’s been no shortage of salacious detail in the past two weeks as the Independent Commission Against Corruption… Read More

7.30 Report: Barrister calls for federal integrity commission

Originally broadcast on 7.30 Report 2nd September 2019 GEOFFREY WATSON, BARRISTER: The issues at stake here go way outside the borders of New South Wales. This is an Australia-wide question. PAUL FARRELL, REPORTER: In March 2015 New South Wales Labor was hosting a dinner for supporters in the Chinese community. KATE MCCLYMONT, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD… Read More

There is no federal agency equipped to carry out corruption inquiries: Geoffrey Watson SC

Interview with Geoffrey Watson SC on The World Today, ABC Radio 2nd September 2019. Shopping bags full of money, claims of foreign influence and the downfall of a once rising Labor star; the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption has heard some sensational and worrying revelations in its recent hearings into the activities of… Read More

Former NSW DPP says proposed Federal ICAC would be a ‘feeble’ version of current state bodies.

ABC News Radio – Friday August 30 As the ICAC investigation into corruption in the NSW branch of the Labor Party continues in Sydney, the Federal Government is moving forward with its planned national anti-corruption body. But a former public prosecutor says the the proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission would be the weakest integrity commission in… Read More

$100,000 cash in a shopping bag is eye catching, but it’s not the real issue

By Geoffrey Watson, originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald on September 1, 2019 The current Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry is of critical importance – and for two quite separate reasons. ICAC is exposing continuing problems with election funding in NSW. The public inquiry is still in its early days, and it is not… Read More

Secret whistleblower trial will only add to Australia’s shame over spying cover-up

By Anthony Whealy, originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 29th September 2019 The prosecution of witness K, a former intelligence agent, and his lawyer Bernard Collaery has raised considerable outrage. At issue is the right of the public to be given details of wrongful and shameful behaviour by the Australian government. In this… Read More

Vague claims around Commonwealth Integrity Commission need evidence

The following statement from Attorney-General Christian Porter (The Age, 2/8) in relation to his proposed model for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission raises more questions than it answers. Porter claims that: “The reason why this legislation cannot be rushed should be obvious … given the many examples of injustices and damage done to personal and professional reputations… Read More

Lobbying of federal ministers is ‘out of control’, retired judge says

By Tony Moore, originally published in Brisbane Times and Sydney Morning Herald 22nd August 2019 Lobbying of federal ministers must be the next anti-corruption focus, a retired Victorian Supreme Court judge has asserted in an annual speech in honour of one of the country’s most well-known corruption fighters. Justice Stephen Charles gave the Tony Fitzgerald… Read More

‘They’re morally corrupt’: Crossbenchers slam politics and take on Crown

Published 31st July 2019 by David Crowe in the Sydney Morning Herald Federal crossbenchers have lashed out at “morally corrupt” politicians who are not heeding calls for a more powerful commission to investigate corruption amid concerns a new inquiry into Crown Resorts will be too weak. Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie declared she might not back… Read More

National security being used to stifle public interest journalism, former judges warn

This article was originally published in The Guardian on 27th July 2019 A new group of prominent ex-judges and anti-corruption experts has warned that national security is being used to clamp down on whistleblowers and journalists on an unprecedented scale. The newly-formed Centre for Public Integrity has brought together a powerful collection of former judges,… Read More

7.30 Report: Debate over what powers a National Integrity Commission should have

Broadcast on 7.30 Report Tuesday 16th July LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER:  Along with the public’s right to know, broader questions about transparency and integrity in government are also front and centre in Australian politics at the moment. The Government last year caved to pressure to establish a National Integrity Commission, but debate is still raging about… Read More

In the era of Trump, there is no penalty for public wrongdoing

By Nick O’Malley Late last month the writer E. Jean Carroll published a detailed account of her rape in a New York department store by Donald Trump in 2005 or 2006. President Trump denied the allegation, explaining that Carroll was not his “type”. America’s media shrugged and moved on, following the President to the G20… Read More

Australian Law Council warns against winding back press freedom following AFP raids

The Australian Federal Police says they’re still considering whether ABC and NewsCorp journalists will face prosecution for publishing classified information. The acting police commissioner, Neil Gaughan, made the comments during a press conference called yesterday to explain this week’s heavily-criticised raids on the ABC and the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst. But legal… Read More

Coalition’s anti-corruption body ‘a sham’, retired judge says

By Nick O’Malley The Coalition’s proposed federal integrity commission to investigate corruption in the public sector is “fraudulent” and designed to protect ministers, a retired judge says. Stephen Charles, a member of a non-partisan group of former judges campaigning for an effective federal integrity commission, said he could name around 20 issues worthy of investigation,… Read More

‘Elections shouldn’t be bought’: Push for donation limits to prevent corruption

By David Crowe The way cash is raised to run political campaigns is resulting in “shocking” levels of corruption, Australians are being warned, in a new push for drastic reforms to donation laws, including swift disclosure of big donors. The call for reform includes a warning about “war chest corruption” as the federal election campaign… Read More