Australia’s trust in federal politics is at an all-time low. Australians have never trusted our politicians less. To restore faith in our democracy and help politics help itself, it is time to create an independent anti-corruption watchdog to investigate and expose corruption and serious misconduct at a federal level.
An Idea Whose Time Has Come
Our polling research consistently finds an overwhelming majority of Australians support a national integrity commission. Sometimes, Australians are also asked about specific powers (like public hearings, accepting whistle-blower complaints etc) which also attract overwhelming support.
31 March 2016 — Australia Institute polling research
Australia Institute releases its first poll showing that most Australians (65%) support a national anti-corruption body.
14 January 2017 — Australia Institute open letter
41 prominent Australians sign an Australia Institute open letter calling for a national anti-corruption body.
8 February 2017 — Parliamentary Committee forms
Senate Select Committee on a National Integrity Commission forms.
17 August 2017 — Australia Institute conference
The Australia Institute holds the Accountability & The Law conference at Parliament House, where speakers make the case for a federal anti-corruption commission.
13 September 2017 — Parliamentary Committee reports
Senate Select Committee on a National Integrity Commission releases its report, and ceases to exist. The report recommends that the government give careful consideration to establishing a broad integrity and corruption Commonwealth agency.
Greens dissenting report recommends government begin work immediately on a national integrity commission. Additional comments from Nick Xenophon Team and Senator Derryn Hinch also make the case for a national integrity commission.
October 2017 — National Integrity Committee forms
The National Integrity Committee forms under the auspices of The Australia Institute.
27 November 2017 — National Integrity Committee principles
National Integrity Committee releases its principles for designing a national integrity commission, its first piece of work. The National Integrity Committee featured in a 7:30 report earlier that month.
17 January 2018 — Australia Institute runs TV ads
The Australia Institute runs its first TV ads on this issue.
30 January 2018 — Labor at National Press Club
Labor leader Bill Shorten announces at the National Press Club that the party will implement a national integrity commission if it is elected. Prime Minister Turnbull does not rule out the proposal.
January 2018 — Coalition Government considers options
In December 2018, the Coalition Government says that January 2018 is when they “began carefully considering options for a national anti-corruption body”.
February and May 2018 — National Integrity Committee meets with Attorney-General
The National Integrity Committee meets Attorney-General Christian Porter in February and May.
March 2018 — Coalition Government is considering detailed models
Attorney-General Christian Porter says the Coalition is considering “detailed models” for a national anti-corruption body.
9 April 2018 — National Integrity Committee releases blueprint
The National Integrity Committee releases its blueprint analysis for a national integrity commission.
June–August 2018 — Submission prepared for Cabinet
In the aftermath of the Turnbull leadership spill, it emerges that a detailed cabinet submission on national anti-corruption body had been prepared in June and was due to be considered by federal cabinet until derailed by leadership challenge.
28 September 2018 — National Integrity Committee releases implementation plan
National Integrity Committee releases their implementation plan for a national integrity commission.
November 2018 — Parliament calls for an integrity commission
House of Representatives passes Senate motion calling for national integrity commission; for tactical reasons, the Coalition does not vote against the motion.
25 November 2018 — Open letter from former judges
Open letter from 34 former judges and the National Integrity Committee calls for a national integrity commission to be legislated.
26 November 2018 — Integrity commission legislation introduced
Cathy McGowan’s National Integrity Commission Bill is introduced in the House of Representatives, seconded by Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie.
The Greens’ National Integrity Commission Bill (No. 2) is introduced in the Senate. Bill No. 1 was introduced by Senator Christine Milne in 2013.
13 December 2018 — Government announces it will establish integrity commission, open to submissions
Australian Government “will establish a Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC) to strengthen integrity arrangements across the federal public sector.” Consultation paper released.
18 December 2018 — Panel of experts announced
Panel of experts to advise on CIC legislation announced.
23 January 2019 — National Integrity Commission identifies necessary powers
National Integrity Committee identifies the necessary powers for an effective integrity commission.
1 February 2019 — Submissions close
Submissions close for government consultation paper. Panel of experts expected to have completed its advice to government.
4 April 2019 — Budget allocates money
2019–20 Budget allocates $104 million over four years to establish CIC and $2.2 million for ACLEI to be reformed as division of CIC.
3 May 2019 — Labor commits to an integrity commission
Labor say they will legislate an integrity commission within 12 months if elected.
26 May 2019 — Attorney-General identifies integrity commission as a priority
Porter identifies the integrity commission as having progressed to now having “an implementation focus”, and identifies it as one of several “priority” reforms “which I will be working to achieve early in the 46th Parliament”.
31 July 2019 — National Integrity Committee and crossbenchers call for integrity commission “with teeth”
Following the Crown Casino allegations, the National Integrity Committee and federal crossbenchers call for a national integrity commission “with teeth”.
1 August 2019 — Attorney-General commits to establish integrity commission quickly
On a Labor motion calling on the government to establish an integrity commission, Porter tells Parliament that
It’ll be done a lot quicker than the promise those opposite made as to when they would do it; it’ll be a lot quicker than the 12 months that they promised.
It’s not clear if Porter means the legislation will be introduced within 12 months or the commission will exist within 12 months, but the context is that the Labor Opposition promised an integrity commission within 12 months of being elected.
9 September 2019 — Senate passes integrity commission bill
Senate passes Greens’ National Integrity Commission Bill.
11 September 2019 — Attorney-General expects bill by end of the year
Porter says “I am finalising a draft bill to form the basis of public consultation and expect to finalise a bill by the end of the year” and “The shadow Attorney-General and I will have a great deal of work to do together over the coming months on this body”.
Earlier that week, the Senate passed a motion calling for an integrity commission with stronger powers than the proposed CIC.
21 November 2019 — Government backbencher expresses serious concerns
Nationals MP Llew O’Brien says he has “serious concerns” about government’s CIC proposal being too weak, and may cross the floor.
The Guardian says the legislation is expected “in the coming weeks”.
Porter will release the draft legislation “shortly”, but does not clarify the time frame.
17 January 2020 — Attorney-General says extensive consultation means commission will “take as long as necessary”
Porter says the national integrity commission will “take as long as necessary” because of the need for “extensive consultation”. Since it is the holiday period, “I have decided to release the full 300-plus pages of the draft early in the new year”.
3 March 2020 — Draft is in “continuous process of refining”
Public servants confirm they have presented multiple versions of the exposure draft to the Attorney-General in a “continuous process of refining”.
22 May 2020 — Attorney-General says COVID derailed legislation
Porter says that the draft legislation “was ready for release” but derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Does not commit to a timeline, instead saying it will be released “at an appropriate time”.
16 June 2020 — Attorney-General will restart talks with crossbenchers; walks back commitment to integrity commission this term
Porter says he will “restart” talks to “test” the views of crossbenchers who think the CIC as planned would be too weak. Will not commit to setting up CIC in this term. He says “the first time I’ve looked at that legislation since this pandemic hit was actually last week.”
Crossbenchers call for a national integrity commission “with teeth”.
24 August 2020 — Transparency International calls for strong integrity commission
Transparency International calls for strong, fit-for-purpose national integrity commission.
31 August 2020 — Crossbenchers meet with Attorney-General
Crossbenchers meet with Attorney-General Christian Porter. Helen Haines reports following the meeting that “The timeline for the government bill remains unclear”.
1 September 2020 — Helen Haines introduces legislation
Helen Haines introduces legislation to establish the Australian Federal Integrity Commission. The move is welcomed by other crossbenchers and the National Integrity Committee. Australia Institute polling shows 3 in 4 Australians want a commission this year.
6 October 2020 — Federal Budget contains no extra funding for integrity commission
2020–21 Federal Budget includes no extra funding for the CIC. Expected average staffing level for 2020–21 for the CIC is 76.
13 October 2020 — Integrity commission is not an immediate priority
Senator Gerard Rennick says “we don’t support a national integrity commission”, a comment he later walks back. Senator Simon Birmingham says COVID-19 is the priority.
Porter says the draft legislation is ready for release but will not release it as there are “more immediate priorities”.
15 October 2020 — Leaked Coalition talking points
Coalition talking points tell MPs the integrity commission draft legislation will be released “as soon as possible after the more immediate priorities concerning the management of the COVID recovery have been dealt with”.
Attorney-General’s Department says that an exposure draft for a national integrity commission was sent to Porter in December 2019.
26 October 2020 — Helen Haines’ bill
Helen Haines introduces the Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill in the House of Representatives. It does not go to a vote.
2 November 2020 — Government releases draft legislation
The Government begins consultation on its Commonwealth Integrity Commission draft legislation.
12 February 2021 — Submissions close; National Integrity Committee warns Government model “falls disastrously short”
Public submissions close on the Government’s Commonwealth Integrity Commission draft legislation. The Government received 333 submissions, of which 219 were published.
The National Integrity Committee’s submission warns that
the government proposal falls disastrously short of providing an effective body to counter and expose corruption at a National level. Especially in relation to the examination of corruption in the public sector, this model will rightly be seen by the community as a sham, and as a deliberate political diversion designed to shield the public sector, and in particular politicians and their staff, from proper scrutiny and accountability. It will bring the government into justified contempt and harm Australia‘s reputation. Our stocks in the integrity field are presently low and this proposal will further diminish them, and significantly so.
26 February 2021 — Liberal Senator Fierravanti-Wells calls for strong integrity commission
Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells calls for a strong integrity commission, raising unresolved corruption allegations.
8 May 2021 — Labor strengthens call
Labor strengthens its call for a national integrity commission.
26 May 2021 — Government confirms integrity committee legislation introduced “by the end of the year”
At Senate Estimates, the Government confirms it aims to introduce its integrity commission legislation “by the end of the year”.
The Attorney-General’s Department compared ACLEI favourably to state and territory integrity commissions “that might achieve people having their lives destroyed but not actually achieving convictions”.
8 September 2021 — On 1,000th day of integrity commission promise, four key seats overwhelmingly support integrity commission
The Australia Institute polling in four key seats (Brisbane, Braddon, Boothby and Bennelong) finds an overwhelming majority support an integrity commission, including the power to hold public hearings and to receive and act on whistleblower complaints.
The Human Rights Law Centre, the Australian Democracy Network and the Australian Conservation Foundation mark 1,000 days since the Morrison Government committed to introduce an integrity commission.
5 October 2021 — Prime Minister rules out stronger commission
Prime Minister Scott Morrison rules out strengthening its integrity commission model, pointing to NSW ICAC’s investigation of former Premier Gladys Berejiklian as an example of what he is trying to avoid.
19 October 2021 — Big Deal documentary covers integrity commission
The two-part Big Deal documentary on the ABC describes the case for a strong integrity commission.
21 October 2021 — Attempt to force vote fails in Senate
The Australian Senate votes on a Greens concurrence motion, which would have required the House of Representatives to vote on the Greens’ integrity commission legislation if it passed. It fails due to the Coalition and One Nation voting against it.
25 November 2021 — Liberal backbencher crosses floor to support debate
Liberal MP Bridget Archer crosses the floor to vote for a debate on the Helen Haines’ integrity commission bill. Only a technicality meant that the bill was not debated.
1 December 2021 — Fresh calls for strong integrity commission
In a National Press Club address, Transparency International Australia CEO Serena Lillywhite outlines the powers required for an effective integrity commission.
The National Integrity Committee, Labor Opposition, crossbenchers, Australian Federal Police Association, academics and civil society call for an integrity commission with teeth.
11 February 2022 — Cabinet machinations fail to bring on debate
Prime Minister Scott Morrison reportedly proposes in Cabinet to bring a national integrity commission with teeth on for debate in exchange for the passage of the religious discrimination bill. The proposal is not well received by Cabinet.
15 February 2022 — Government confirms no integrity commission before election
Attorney-General Michaelia Cash confirms that the Government will not implement the integrity commission before the election, and that there had been no changes to the Government’s model despite two years of consultation. She blames Labor not supporting the Government’s model for the Government’s failure to introduce legislation.
The previous week, the Attorney-General and Prime Minister had contradicted each other over the course of a day over whether the government may be proceeding with an integrity commission before an election.
17 February 2022 — Liberal backbenchers call for strong integrity commission
Liberal backbenchers Bridget Archer and John Alexander call on the Coalition Government to work with the opposition and crossbench to legislate a strong integrity commission.
16 March 2022 — NSW Treasurer calls for strong federal commission
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean says that strong integrity commissions are needed at the federal level as well as the state level.
29 March 2022 — Budget removes reference to commission commitment
The 2022 Budget removes a reference to the Government’s commitment to establish an integrity commission.
31 March 2022 — Democracy Agenda includes call for strong commission
Crossbench MPs Helen Haines, Rebekha Sharkie and Zali Steggall help the Australia Institute launch the Democracy Agenda for the 47th Parliament, including an integrity commission with teeth.
6 April 2022 — AFPA calls for strong integrity commission
The Australian Federal Police Association calls for an integrity commission with teeth ahead of the 2022 federal election.
12 April 2022 — Law Council of Australia calls for strong commission
The Law Council of Australia calls on parties to support a strong integrity commission.
14 April 2022 — Australia Institute polling finds high support for integrity commission
Australia Institute polling finds three in four Australians support setting up a Commonwealth Integrity Commission.
15 April 2022 — Labor commits to integrity commission by end of the year
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese commits to legislate an integrity commission by the end of the year if elected.
22 April 2022 — Cabinet considered weakened model
The Financial Review reports that last November the Morrison Cabinet considered how South Australia had weakened its integrity commission in the context of their own integrity commission proposal.
May 2022 — Prime Minister calls NSW ICAC a “kangaroo court”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison calls the NSW ICAC a “kangaroo court”, comments Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet distanced themselves from.
Outgoing NSW ICAC commissioner Stephen Rushton said “buffoons” had called ICAC a kangaroo court, and the Prime Minister’s comments were criticised by the Australian Bar Association, NSW Bar Association, the Law Council of Australia and the Australia Institute.
5 May 2022 — Greens commit to vote in first two weeks of Parliament
The Greens commit to bring their national integrity bill on for debate in the Parliament in the first two weeks of the new parliament.
13 May 2022 — Labor Opposition confirms model to draw on Haines’ bill
The Labor Opposition says that its integrity commission model would be retrospective, able to investigate alleged misconduct that occurred 10 to 15 years ago, and would draw on Helen Haines’ existing bill.
18 May 2022 — Former judges call for strong integrity commission
31 former judges sign an open letter organised by the Centre for Public Integrity calling for a strong integrity commission.
21 May 2022 — Labor elected
Labor wins government and is expected to legislate a strong integrity commission before the end of the year. Greens and independents will also contribute, with the Guardian reporting 84–55 support for a strong integrity commission in the new House of Representatives.