The National Integrity Committee is deeply concerned about the recent changes made by the South Australian Parliament to the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Act 2012.
As we all well know corruption in public office is insidious, well hidden, and erodes trust in our public institutions.
We unreservedly endorse the need to ensure that reputations are not damaged unfairly in the investigation of corruption. We also understand the need to make appropriate changes when the systems and processes have proven to be seriously insufficient.
However, the recent amendments appear troublesome and raise a real concern that integrity reform has been set back considerably in South Australia. Certainly, that is the clear view of the well respected ICAC Commissioner Ann Vanstone who maintains that “ICAC’s jurisdiction to investigate corruption has been decimated“. These laws have been passed at a time when public confidence in politicians and the political process are dangerously low.
In the circumstances, the fact that the South Australian Parliament has acted with extraordinary swiftness, and with minimum debate, to emasculate its ICAC will feed the perception, as its critics claim, that the changes were in truth designed to protect politicians.
This in turn will increase the pervasive cynicism by which democracy is further debilitated.
The National Integrity Committee is a group of retired judges who have been involved in advocating for a National Integrity Commission and are supported by the Australia Institute.
Members of the National Integrity Committee are:
- The Hon Stephen Charles AO QC, former judge of the Victorian Court of Appeal
- The Hon Mary Gaudron QC, former judge of the High Court of Australia
- The Hon David Harper AM QC, former judge Victorian Court of Appeal
- The Hon Paul Stein AM QC, former judge of the NSW Court of Appeal, former President of the
- The Hon Anthony Whealy QC, Former judge of the NSW Court of Appeal
- The Hon Margaret White AO, former judge of the Queensland Court of Appeal
- The Hon Carmel McLure AC QC, former President of the Western Australian Court of Appeal.