Response to Federal ICAC Announcement by Government

“Today’s announcement by the Prime Minister is a welcome acknowledgement that the Government sees tackling corruption is important for the health of our democracy and we need new structures to address the problem,” said Ben Oquist, Executive Director of The Australia Institute.

“However, while the problem of corruption has been acknowledged, only half the solution has been proposed.

“The Prime Minister and Attorney General’s proposal comes up well short of best practice. In particular the inability to take public complaints and make its own referrals; the lack of public hearings; the limited jurisdiction and insufficient funding means today’s announcement is not enough.”

“It is important to remember that it is the Parliament, not the Prime Minister, who will ultimately determine the shape and role of any new agency,” Ben Oquist said.

— QUOTES BELOW ATTRIBUTABLE TO THE AUSTRALIA INSTITUTE NATIONAL INTEGRITY COMMITTEE —

THE HON ANTHONY WHEALY QC
Former NSW Court of Appeal and Supreme Court Judge and Member of The Australia Institute National Integrity Committee

“We have serious concerns that this body will not be able to hold public hearings, and will need to reach a threshold of ‘reasonable suspicion’ of a criminal offence before it can begin. This will rule out all the sorts of corruption exposed by NSW ICAC,” said The Hon Anthony Whealy QC, Former NSW Court of Appeal and Supreme Court Judge, and member of  The Australia Institute National Integrity Committee.

“It is important for a national anti-corruption agency not to become a toothless tiger.

“We do need a tiger as a corruption body but under this model we may end up with a pussy cat.

“The Australia Institute’s 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 will suffer.

“The National Integrity Committee looks forward to participating in both the government consultations process and engaging with the entire parliament in ensuring a National anti-corruption watchdog with teeth is designed and implemented in 2019.”

THE HON STEPHEN CHARLES AO QC
Former Judge of Victorian Court of Appeal and Member of The Australia Institute National Integrity Committee

“The Prime Minister’s proposal brings with it the danger that the Baillieu Government fell into in 2013, when the anti-corruption commission they brought in was shown to be a paper tiger because it was afraid of what the IBAC might do if given the proper powers,” said The Hon Stephen Charles AO QC, Former Judge of Victorian Court of Appeal and Member of The Australia Institute National Integrity Committee.

A set of detailed design principles and elements have been developed over many months by the Australia Institute National Integrity Committee which can used as a benchmark for judging the effectiveness of the final design of the National Integrity Commission.

( see http://www.tai.org.au/content/national-integrity-commission-papers and http://www.tai.org.au/content/corruption-fighters-and-former-judges-design-national-corruption-watchdog )

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