Local, Independant and Effective

Need for Independent Integrity Commission

Posted September 12, 2018


Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence - Cathy has called on the government to to take steps towards strengthening the integrity of our institutions.

Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (16:08):  I'd like to begin my speech by seeking permission to table these reports mentioned by my colleague the member for Mayo.

Leave granted.

Ms McGOWAN:  Thank you very much. I welcome the comments from my colleague and neighbour the member for Murray and absolutely agree with him about the importance of having a national integrity commission to do all the things and address all the issues that need to be done. Like him, I'm a great believer in having fair, open and transparent government. An independent integrity commission is, in my opinion, a really important part of that. In my speech I'll outline what we do to seriously consider an overarching integrity and anticorruption commission and why it matters in my community, and I put a call out to the government to take steps towards strengthening the integrity of all our institutions.

One of the key principles, colleagues, that I use in this place when I'm making decisions and voting is: will it bring good governance? With that background, I don't do deals, and I don't do deals in exchange for confidence or supply, because that's not good governance. I fiercely hold on to my right to vote on every bit of legislation on its merits. The trust and faith of my electorate in this House and the work we do relies on my community trusting and having good faith in the integrity of our system.

I support a process where we regularly reassess and strengthen the system of integrity and anticorruption in this country.

So why do we need an integrity commission? At the very least, we need a commission to provide coordination and oversight of the many anticorruption efforts of integrity agencies at the Commonwealth level and to link into the work of the state and territory jurisdictions. A federal commission will be in a position to fill the gaps in our current system, to ensure there are investigative powers and to expose corrupt conduct in the federal government and the public sector. We have seen that every state in Australia now has an anticorruption commission that operates alongside other state integrity agencies. They have uncovered many examples of systemic corruption and misconduct that were not found by existing agencies. So I can't be convinced that there's nothing to see here at the Commonwealth level. We only have to look at the impact of the royal commission into the banking sector to see the potential for misconduct to be exposed even when there are existing systems and regulators with oversight. I say let the sun shine in.

When compared with state governments, the federal government falls short. No agency can investigate alleged misconduct of members of parliament, ministers or the judiciary. The agencies which do have strong investigative powers such as the Federal Police can only use them when investigating criminal charges, and no agency holds regular public hearings. This means corruption and misconduct are not properly exposed to the public and the only avenue for public hearings is through parliament, and this is controlled by the numbers and the major parties. So I think it's no accident today that it's been the independents and the crossbench that have brought on this MPI.

Why does it matter for my community? Corruption and misconduct not only undermine the integrity out of our democracy but have a direct impact on the everyday lives of all Australians. It undermines the delivery of government policy and the delivery of services to our communities.

Ultimately, we are all here at taxpayers' expense and we need to make sure the best interests of Australians are put first and foremost, so today I call upon the government. I call upon the government to take steps towards strengthening the integrity of all our institutions. If they're not willing to support the establishment of an independent integrity commissioner now, today, then tell us how they're going to go about establishing an integrity coordinator—someone or some organisation to work with existing integrity agencies to assess our systems of integrity and anticorruption to at least coordinate what we're already doing. This assessment would identify gaps. It would coordinate activities across government and interaction with the state commissions.

In bringing my remarks to a close, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

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