Federal Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek says the proposed Federal Integrity Commission is so weak it would not have had the power to investigate the Leppington Triangle deal.
It was confirmed this week that the deal, in which the Commonwealth paid almost $30 million for a parcel of land near the future Western Sydney airport, that was valued at $3 million a year later, is being investigated by the Australian Federal Police.
This week Attorney-General Christian Porter said legislation to establish a federal anti-corruption commission would be released publicly soon.
The plan for a commission, overseeing law enforcement agencies and the public service, was first announced in late 2018, but Mr Porter said it had been delayed by the pandemic.
But Ms Plibersek told Insiders, while she strongly supports having a federal integrity commission, the model proposed by the Government would be useless.
“I think it’s extraordinary that two years ago the Government had said it had begun work on a national integrity commission … and I can’t believe, even the discussion of what they’re proposing now,” she told Insiders. .
“It’s the integrity commission you have if you don’t want to have an integrity commission.
“It can’t look at behaviour that has happened in the past, it can only look at behaviour that has happened after the laws have passed and the body is set up.
“It can’t look at things off its own bat, it can’t accept referrals from whistleblowers.”
Ms Plibersek said under those rules the commission would not have the power to look into the Leppington Triangle land deal.
A recent audit office report was scathing of the deal, questioning the integrity and probity of the process. The AFP is now investigating if criminality was involved.
‘What a joke’
“If the Government wants to investigate itself, it can refer itself to its own integrity commission — I mean, what a joke,” Ms Plibersek said.
“We would not have seen investigation around the dodgy water deals we’ve seen. We wouldn’t have seen investigations of allegations of forged documents or branch stacking using taxpayer funds.
“All of these things ought to be properly investigated by a federal integrity commission, and the model that the Government’s proposing wouldn’t touch those sorts of issues. It shows how weak the model is.”
The ABC has contacted the Attorney-General for comment.
The calls for a Federal Integrity Commission have been renewed on the back of this week’s revelations from the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
While giving evidence to ICAC on Monday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealed she had been in a secret relationship with the subject of its investigation, former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire, for five years.
Ms Berejkiklian insisted she did nothing wrong and had no knowledge of any wrongdoing by Mr Maguire, and has resisted calls from the NSW Labor opposition to resign.
Ms Plibersek did not join the call for Ms Berejiklian’s resignation but said while she did feel for her personally, all Mr Maguire’s associates should be scrutinised.
“Look, I feel actually, as a human being, very personally sorry for the Premier, it is hard to form and maintain relationships in our line of work,” she said.
“But there is never any excuse for corrupt behaviour or turning a blind eye to corrupt behaviour.
“Any sort of impropriety should be properly investigated by ICAC and if it is referred to the police, by the police or the courts, it doesn’t matter who the person is, it doesn’t matter their gender, it doesn’t matter if we like the person or feel sorry for them.”