The Federal Government has knocked back Labor’s proposal for a federal anti-corruption commission, arguing the Opposition failed to present any detail.
Labor leader Bill Shorten made the pledge to establish a federal version of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in a speech to the National Press Club in January, and said there was a need to ensure potential corruption in politics and the public service was properly investigated.
But months after that proposal, Attorney-General Christian Porter has told Labor the Government will not be adopting the proposal.
“The Government continues to consider ways to further strengthen and improve the national integrity framework and a national body is one mechanism being considered, and the Government remains open-minded about further reforms that could improve our current arrangements,” Mr Porter said.
Labor’s approach has been to announce a body, but provide absolutely no detail about how it would work.
“The experience at the state level has been that this is the worst possible area in which to engage in policy on the run.”
Much of the debate has been around what form such an anti-corruption commission would take.
There have been some concerns about how models used in states such as New South Wales have created a media circus every time there have been high-profile investigations.
In South Australia, the recently elected Liberal Government has given the state’s anti-corruption commissioner the power to hold public hearings — something not allowed when the former Labor government established the body.
‘We have to do better’, Dreyfus says
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said Mr Porter’s rejection of his party’s idea was “disappointing”, particularly after a bipartisan committee had recommended otherwise.
“Mr Porter used to say that he was ‘not closed-minded’ to the proposal, so what changed?” Mr Dreyfus said in a statement.
“It is time for both parties to acknowledge that we have to do better, if we are to regain the trust of those we represent.
“Labor is prepared to take the important steps towards that goal.”
The shadow attorney-general argued the current system of having a range of different organisations preventing and investigating corruption was “fragmented”, and needed review.
Last week, the bipartisan committee investigating whether changes needed to be made to the constitution in the wake of the dual citizenship fiasco suggested a federal integrity commission might be needed.
The committee said it had received a number of submissions recommending such a commission as a way to judge potential conflicts of interests, arising from the constitution’s rules on eligibility to hold office.