Statement in response to the Attorney General Hon. Christian Porter’s National Press Club Address

In November 2017, the National Integrity Committee formed to design a blueprint of design principles to be used to advise policymakers on the best model for a federal anti-corruption watchdog.

Former NSW ICAC Commissioner David Ipp AO QC, former President of the Queensland Court of Appeal Margaret McMurdo AC, and Chair of Transparency International Anthony Whealy QC established the National Integrity Committee to design specific accountability measures, including a national integrity commission. Other members of the Committee include former Judge of the NSW Court of Appeal Paul Stein AC QC, former Judges of the Victorian Court of Appeal Stephen Charles AO QC and David Harper AM QC.  In 2018, Margaret McCurdo AC stepped down following her appointment as Chair of the Victorian Royal Commission into Management of Informants, and former judge of the Queensland Court Appeal Margaret White AO has joined the Committee.

Today in November 2019, the principles for ensuring integrity and accountability in public life have not changed and are as follows —

The National Integrity Committee’s Principles for Designing a National Integrity Commission are that the Commission:

  • is an independent statutory body that is provided with the required resourcing to enable it to promote integrity and accountability and to enable it to prevent, investigate and expose corruption.
  • has broad jurisdiction, including the ability to investigate any conduct of any person that adversely affects or could adversely affect, directly or indirectly, the honest or impartial exercise of public administration, if the Commissioner deems the conduct to be serious or systemic.
  • is granted the investigative powers of a Royal Commission to undertake its work, to be executed at the discretion of the Commissioner.
  • may hold a public inquiry providing it is satisfied that opening the inquiry to the public will make the investigation to which the inquiry relates more effective, and would be in the public interest.
  • is governed by one Chief Commissioner and two Deputy Commissioners, appointed by the Minister on recommendations from a bipartisan Parliamentary committee. The Chief Commissioner is to be appointed for fixed non-renewable 5 year term, and must be a judge or a retired judge or be qualified for appointment as a judge.
  • is empowered to make findings of fact, to be referred to a well-resourced and specialised unit within the DPP for consideration for prosecution.

In 2018, 34 former Judges from across Australia penned an open letter calling for the urgent establishment of a National Integrity Commission and furthermore, endorsed the Australia Institute National Integrity Committee’s benchmark for the design of a National Integrity Commission, noting in particular, the need for it to include a broad jurisdiction and strong investigative powers, including public hearings.

Signatories of this open letter include The Hon Sir Gerard Brennan AC QC, former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, The Hon Mary Gaudron QC, former Justice of the High Court, and The Hon Tony Fitzgerald AC QC, former Federal Court judge and head of the Fitzgerald Inquiry.

Rather than run commentary on Australia Institute research, we invite the Attorney General to release his draft legislation for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC), promised by the end of this year, for public consultation and to discuss with the National Integrity Committee how his proposed CIC compares to our Principles for the Design of a National Integrity Commission.

National Integrity Committee’s Principles for designing a National Integrity Commission can be found here.

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