Budget Reveals Commonwealth Integrity Commission a Long Way Off

by Bill Browne

More than two years after the Government committed to establishing a Commonwealth Integrity Commission that would investigate corruption at the federal level, the Budget reveals that the commission will have zero staff through to mid-2022, after the next election.

In last October’s budget, the Commission was expected to have 76 staff this year. So what has changed since then?

How it started:

Commonwealth Integrity Commission staffing – how it started

How it’s going:

Commonwealth Integrity Commission staffing – how it’s going

After Labor committed to establish an integrity commission within a year of the 2019 federal election, then Attorney-General Christian Porter said the Government would get the Commission done “a lot quicker than the 12 months [Labor] promised”. That deadline has been shot past – one of many delays identified by the Australia Institute. The Government’s proposed model has been described as falling “disastrously short of providing an effective body to counter corruption among public servants, ministers, parliamentarians, and their staff,” by the Hon Anthony Whealy QC, retired Judge and member of the Commonwealth Integrity Committee auspiced by the Australia Institute.

An overwhelming majority of Australians support an anti-corruption commission at the federal level. In fact, three in four said they wanted the commission implemented before the end of 2020.

The Budget papers do say that the Government still plans to legislate the commission, and the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity – which will be absorbed into the commission when it is finally established – does get funding to expand its scope. But that does nothing to address the risk of public sector corruption – which is in danger of being neglected even if the Government does get its version of a commission legislated.

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