34 former judges from across Australia have penned an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, calling for the urgent establishment of a National Integrity Commission.
Signatories to the open letter include The Hon Sir Gerard Brennan AC QC, former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, The Hon Mary Gaudron QC, former justice of the High Court, and The Hon Tony Fitzgerald AC QC, former Federal Court judge and head of the Fitzgerald Inquiry.
The open letter states in part:
“A major cause of the current deterioration in trust is the suspicion that corruption permeates many governmental decisions and actions. Corruption, broadly understood in this context, occurs when those in public office place private interests over the public good. The avoidance of corruption is an essential organising principle of our representative democracy.”
“A National Integrity Commission is urgently needed to fill the gaps in our integrity system and restore trust in our democracy.”
The letter endorses the Australia Institute National Integrity Committee’s benchmark for the design of a National Integrity Commission, which includes a broad jurisdiction and strong investigative powers, including public hearings.
“The National Integrity Committee has established a benchmark for an effective federal anti-corruption body. It must have a broad jurisdiction, strong investigative powers and the ability to hold public hearings. Without public hearings, transparency and accountability cannot be achieved,” said The Hon Stephen Charles AO QC, Former Victorian Court of Appeal judge and adviser on IBAC design.
“It is time for the Federal Government to meet the current commitments from Labor, the Greens and independents, and establish a National Integrity Commission.
“Integrity and accountability are critical features of democracy. One would hope for bipartisan support of these issues,” said The Hon Anthony Whealy QC, Former NSW Court of Appeal and Supreme Court Judge.
“The establishment of a National Integrity Commission should be an urgent matter and we look forward to working with candidates and elected representatives from all parties to ensure Australia gets an anti-corruption body with the powers it needs to deliver.
“Australia Institute research shows 88% Australians support establishing an anti-corruption watchdog. It’s time for politics to help itself – a national integrity commission is crucial to restoring public confidence in our political institutions and our democracy,” said Ben Oquist, Executive Director of The Australia Institute.
The open letter published in the Sunday Age on 25 November 2018 can be viewed in full here .