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Government backs down on corruption commission

Scott Morrison Grace Tame call
Scott Morrison has backed down from a promise to legislate a federal anti-corruption commission. Photo: AAP
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The Morrison government has confirmed it will shelve plans to establish a national anti-corruption commission, its second failure to legislate an election promise in as many weeks.

As the government stood on the verge of failing to pass its religious discrimination bill last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison hinted that there could still be time to introduce legislation on a federal anti-corruption commission.

“We’ll see,” said Mr Morrison, tamping down reports from Attorney-General Michaelia Cash that the government had simply run out of time and support.

“The term is not completed.”

But during a Senate estimates inquiry on Tuesday, Senator Cash confirmed the government would not proceed with its plans, which were a pre-election commitment.

Michaelia Cash confirmed the government will not proceed with a federal ICAC bill. Photo: AAP

“At this point in time we won’t be proceeding,” Senator Cash said of the bill that was first announced in late 2018 and released in draft form two years later.

“We’ve always said we would require bipartisan support.

“There is no support for our bill.”

The government’s model for an integrity commission was met with criticism from top corruption experts, including the former counsel for the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption Geoffrey Robertson, who said its design was not conducive to corruption disclosure.

ALP Senator Karen Grogan disputed the Attorney-General’s claims that the fault for the bill not being introduced lay with the opposition and the crossbench.

Senator Grogan said the government had refused to listen to criticism about its model for a Commonwealth integrity commission and improve upon it.

“Not one word changed from your exposure; it was a glorious waste of time,” she said.

“This is an appalling place for us to land so close to an election […after three] long years.”

Senator Cash snapped at the Opposition’s Murray Watt after the latter suggested that members of the cabinet were reluctant to push ahead with a body that could turn upon them.

The Attorney-General pointed to state Labor governments facing corruption issues.

It was reported last week that the federal cabinet had overruled Mr Morrison after the Prime Minister suggested that the government could offer to introduce the corruption bill for debate as a lure for winning support for its religious discrimination bill.