The National Integrity Committee welcomes the tabling in the Senate today by Senator Rex Patrick of Helen Haines’ Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill to establish a Federal Integrity Commission.
Recent events have highlighted the urgent need for a well-designed commission, with the powers of a standing royal commission and with safeguards against misuse of those powers. The Senate now has the opportunity, for too long neglected, to advance the fight against systemic and serious corruption at the federal level.
“The time has come for the government to take integrity in all the institutions of federal government, especially the Parliament and its members, seriously,” said The Hon David Harper AM QC, former judge Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal.
“This legislation is long overdue, yet the Government continues to prevaricate.
“Any effective Federal Integrity Commission must have a broad jurisdiction. This must include the power to receive referrals from the public and to hold public hearings when fairness and the public interest align so as to warrant such a step. Most importantly, it must also hold Ministers and MPs to the same standards of accountability as everyone in public service. It is our view that Helen Haines’ Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill is a vital step towards meeting all the requirements of an effective anti-corruption watchdog.
“If the Government is genuine in its desire to implement a Federal Integrity Commission, a self-described priority of this term of Government, this is its chance to prove it.
“The Government’s draft model is the integrity commission you legislate when you don’t really want one. It protects, rather than exposes, corruption in federal politics.
“With an election imminent, Australia urgently needs a Federal Integrity Commission with teeth.
“We strongly urge the Senate to support this Bill,” Mr Harper said.