Victorian IBAC not the model for federal watchdog – former judge and IBAC adviser

The Hon Stephen Charles AO QC, former judge and adviser to Baillieu government on IBAC design, has today launched a briefing paper with The Australia Institute outlining the flaws in the operation of Victoria’s corruption watchdog.

The paper finds that:

  • IBAC has significant flaws that mean it is not a suitable model, in its current state, for a federal anti-corruption watchdog, as recently suggested by PM Malcolm Turnbull
  • The Victorian government intentionally set up a weak corruption watchdog to avoid being damaged by IBAC’s investigations. There is a risk of this happening again at a federal level if the federal government opts for a federal anti-corruption watchdog modelled on IBAC in its current state.
  • Victoria should strengthen IBAC by broadening the definition of corrupt conduct in its jurisdiction, strengthening its investigative powers and ability to use them, and widening its ability to hold public hearings.

“Victoria’s corruption watchdog remains weak and unable to effectively do its job. It has a narrow jurisdiction, weak investigative powers and a limited ability to use them, including public hearings which are critical to exposing corruption to the public,” the Hon Stephen Charles AO QC said today.

“The real question now is whether Victorians are prepared to leave IBAC in its present weakened state, still unable to use its statutory powers at the outset of most investigations in the absence of a well-informed tip-off,” said Mr Charles.

“IBAC should be entitled to full use of its statutory powers at the start of any investigation, unhampered by statutory thresholds, enabling it to perform its critical functions effectively,”

“If Victorians serious about addressing the risk of corruption in this state, our parliament should amend the IBAC Act now to remedy the defects identified above,”

“And IBAC should certainly not be used as the model for any new National Integrity Commission unless these defects have been removed from the IBAC Act,”

“Setting up weak corruption watchdogs are a way of politicians avoiding scrutiny. IBAC was constrained from the start by Ministerial advisers afraid that IBAC investigations would damage the government. We cannot let this happen federally,” concluded Mr Charles.

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