Former Judges, Opposition, Crossbench, Federal Police, Academics, Civil Society, Majority of Australians: Establish a Federal Integrity Commission with Teeth

The Australia Institute’s National Integrity Committee of Former Judges have joined with Federal Parliamentarians from all sides of politics, the Australian Federal Police Association, academics, and civil society to call on the Attorney General to establish a federal integrity commission with teeth.

The Attorney General’s Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC) model which has been re-released for consultation is weak, ineffectual and unfit for purpose. It is the integrity commission one proposes when one does not want an integrity commission.

The Hon Stephen Charles AO QC – former Judge of the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal
The Hon Anthony Whealy QC – former Judge of the NSW Supreme Court of Appeal
Helen Haines MP – Independent Member for Indi
Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP – Shadow Attorney General
Rebekha Sharkie MP – Centre Alliance Member for Mayo
Andrew Wilkie MP – Independent Member for Clark
Bob Katter MP – Independent Member for Kennedy
Zali Steggall MP – Independent Member for Warringah
Senator Larissa Waters – Greens Leader in the Senate, Spokesperson on Democracy
Senator Jacqui Lambie – Independent Senator for Tasmania
Senator Rex Patrick – Independent Senator for South Australia
Professor AJ Brown – Transparency International Australia
Geoffrey Watson SC – Centre for Public Integrity
Troy Roberts – Australian Federal Police Association
Ben Oquist – Executive Director of the Australia Institute

Where:  Mural Hall, Australian Parliament House

When: 12noon TODAY, Tuesday 1 December 2020

The Commonwealth Integrity Commission as currently drafted will not pass this Parliament.

The Beechworth Principles and the Senate motion passed on 9 November 2020 confirm that to be effective any proposed federal integrity commission should have:

  • Broad jurisdiction to investigate corrupt conduct within the public sector
  • Common rules for all public officials with no exceptionalism for politicians
  • Strong investigative powers to do its job and procedural fairness safeguards
  • Ability to hold public hearings when in the public interest with appropriate safeguards
  • Public referrals and powers to commence investigations independently based on those referrals
  • Strong whistleblower protections
  • Adequate and secure funding to be able to fulfil its purpose
  • Oversight by a multi-party parliamentary committee, including of the appointment of commissioners, and an independent parliamentary inspector to ensure accountability to the people

“MPs from all sides of parliament have made their concerns abundantly clear to the Attorney-General. We are not holding our breath. The Attorney-General must deliver draft legislation that meets the Beechworth Principles and Senate motion as a matter of urgency. We are out of patience,” said Helen Haines MP, Independent Member for Indi.

“Australia needs a powerful and independent National Integrity Commission, not the weak, secretive and compromised model proposed by the Morrison Government which will ensure it could never be held accountable,” said Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC MP.

“80 per cent of Australians want a robust federal integrity commission as a matter of urgency. A genuine federal integrity commission with teeth will help prevent a further erosion of trust in our democracy. Crucially, an anti-corruption watchdog helps safeguard our democracy by giving the community confidence that the majority are doing the right thing,” said Ben Oquist, Executive Director of the Australia Institute.

Full transcript of the Press Conference available here.

The members of the National Integrity Committee auspiced by the Australia Institute are:

The Hon Mary Gaudron QC, former Judge of the High Court; The Hon Anthony Whealy QC, former Judge of the NSW Court of Appeal; The Hon Paul Stein AC QC, former Judge of the NSW Court of Appeal; The Hon Stephen Charles AO QC, former Judge of the Victorian Court of Appeal; The Hon David Harper AM QC, former Judge of the Victorian Court of Appeal; The Hon Margaret White AO, former Judge of the Queensland Court Appeal; and The Hon Carmel McLure AC QC, former Judge of the Western Australian Court of Appeal.

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