Open letter calls for Federal watchdog in wake of latest round of politician rort scandals

An open letter, published today, calls for an independent federal anti-corruption watchdog. Such a commission would be far reaching with the power to investigate potential corruption, which does not appear to be the remit of the agency to administer and oversee parliamentarian work expenses which was announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Friday.

Prominent signatories of the open letter include:

Former WA Premier Geoff Gallop; UNSW Dean of Law George Williams AO; Robert Richter QC;  former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery AM QC; former judge Supreme Court of Victoria The Hon David Harper AM QC; former speaker NSW parliament The Hon Kevin Razoli AM; John Menadue AO; ACTU President Ged Kearney; Former Member for New England Tony Windsor; Professor Graeme Orr.

—Sign on to the open letter here—

The letter follows a fresh round of scandals involving parliamentary privileges and travel claims:

ESTABLISH A FEDERAL ANTI-CORRUPTION WATCHDOG 

To Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

It’s time to create an independent anti-corruption watchdog to investigate and expose corruption and serious misconduct at the federal level, including among federal parliamentarians.

The public is sick and tired of the lack of accountability revealed by repeated scandals involving federal politicians.

In NSW where an anti-corruption watchdog is active, serious cases of corruption have been uncovered. Ongoing scandals involving federal politicians –whether concerning breaches of travel entitlements, political donations or otherwise—show that the serious wrongdoing uncovered in NSW is unlikely to be limited to the state governments and state politicians. This is a national issue that cannot be ignored any longer.

Research shows that corruption hinders growth, increases the cost of doing business, and makes genuine reform on issues we care about more difficult. A new commitment to accountability will not just help our democracy, but our economy.

We urge you to help restore integrity, accountability and trust in the federal Parliament and Australian Public service by immediately establishing a federal independent anti-corruption commission. 

“It’s quite stunning that the Prime Minister has stood up and basically announced that elected officials cannot be trusted and needed a whole agency just to help them with their travel claims,” Chief Economist for The Australia Institute, Richard Denniss said.

“The Australian public are sick of  the spectacle of politicians seemingly stuck in a cycle of rort, resignation, review, and repeat; the revolving door of Minister and lobbyist, and lax political donations disclosure laws.

“We need a broad based commission with teeth that examines potential fraud and misconduct across the full range of political decision making.”

Polling

New polling conducted by ReachTEL for The Australia Institute surveyed 2,285 residents across Australia. The results showed very high perceptions of corruption in federal politics and strong support for a national watchdog.

Question: Do you think there is corruption in federal politics?

 

Total

Female

Male

18 – 34

35 – 50

51 – 65

65+

Yes – a lot

55.2%

54.3%

56.2%

58.7%

55.4%

55.2%

49.1%

Yes – a little

30.1%

29.6%

30.6%

24.4%

33.1%

29.0%

36.1%

No

6.7%

8.2%

5.2%

7.1%

7.0%

6.0%

6.6%

Don’t know or not sure

8.0%

7.9%

8.1%

9.8%

4.5%

9.7%

8.1%

 

Question: All Australian states have an independent corruption watchdog with the power to investigate and expose corruption among politicians and public servants in their state. There is no similar federal watchdog.

Do you support or oppose setting up a national independent corruption watchdog?

 

Total

Female

Male

18 – 34

35 – 50

51 – 65

65+

Support

82.3%

84.4%

80.1%

79.9%

79.9%

85.9%

85.5%

Oppose

6.6%

4.7%

8.7%

7.1%

8.1%

5.4%

4.9%

Undecided

11.0%

10.9%

11.2%

13.0%

11.9%

8.6%

9.6%

“These results show that people don’t buy the argument that corruption is limited to state governments, or that existing federal bodies are doing enough to counteract corruption.

“With 85% of people agreeing that there is corruption in federal politics, a national independent anti-corruption commission is a logical way to begin the process of restoring public trust,” Denniss said.

Related research

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