This submission is made on behalf of the National Integrity Committee. We are an independent group of retired judges who have been advocating the need for a Federal Integrity Commission since 2017. The Committee was formed with the assistance of The Australia Institute; however, we remain an independent body acting in the public interest on a pro bono basis.

The Committee would like to congratulate the Government on the draft National Anti-Corruption Bill and, in particular, on giving early effect to this important reform.

We have developed a number of basic principles which we believe are necessary to ensure that, once established, a commission will be effective. In our opinion, those principles are:

  1. The Commission must be an independent body, provided with adequate resourcing to enable it to promote integrity and accountability and to prevent, investigate, and expose corruption.
  2. It must have a broad jurisdiction, including the ability to investigate any conduct of any person that adversely affects or could adversely affect, the honest or impartial exercise of public administration.
  3. It must be granted the full investigative powers of a Royal Commission to undertake its work.
  4. It must have the power to hold public hearings.
  5. It should be governed by a Chief Commissioner and two Deputy Commissioners appointed by the Governor-General on recommendations from a multi partisan Parliamentary committee. Whenever the numerical representation of the crossbench in the Parliament so warrants, this committee should include a representative of the crossbench.
  6. The Chief Commissioner must be a judge or a retired judge of a Supreme Court or the Federal Court or be qualified for such an appointment.
  7. The Commission must be empowered to make findings of fact, and, in appropriate cases, findings of corrupt conduct.
  8. The Commission must be subject to oversight to ensure that it always acts with absolute impartiality and fairness, and within its charter.

The Commission we envisage would fill a serious gap in Australia’s capacity to address corruption. It would investigate with rigour and fairness, and expose without fear or favour, behaviour that deliberately impairs, or could impair, the honesty, impartiality, or efficacy of official conduct wherever it occurs in the federal sphere.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) Bill meets many of these principles, including being independent from Government, having broad jurisdiction and having full investigative powers. However, we are concerned about the limitation on the ability to hold public hearings, the composition of the Joint Parliamentary Committee and the role of the Inspector.

Note: An earlier version of the attached briefing note said the NSW ICAC had held 45 public inquiries and the Victorian IBAC 5 in the time period examined. The correct figures are 42 and 8 respectively.


Briefing Note