THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS AND ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDERS

MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG

 

THE HON. MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

A NATIONAL INTEGRITY COMMISSION –

RESTORING TRUST IN POLITICS & THE PUBLIC SECTOR

 

A Shorten Labor Government will establish a National Integrity Commission to prevent, investigate and eliminate corruption inside the federal government and the public sector.

In recent years there has been a loss of faith in the ability of politicians and the public service to properly represent and serve the public interest.

All Australians deserve to have confidence in the integrity of their government, their parliament, the public service and our public institutions.

While there is not substantial evidence of widespread corruption at a federal level, that is not a reason to do nothing.

The recent Senate inquiry has shown that Australia’s current federal anti-corruption framework is uncoordinated, inconsistent and confusing. While many agencies have some partial responsibilities in this area, their work is haphazard and overlapping.

It’s clear we need to strengthen and simplify our anti-corruption framework – to weed out serious and systemic corruption, promote integrity, and restore the trust of the Australian people in their representatives and institutions.

The National Integrity Commission will adhere to the following seven design principles:

1.    The Commission will operate as an independent statutory body, with sufficient resources to ensure it is able to carry out its functions regardless of the government of the day.

2.    The Commission would be constituted by one Commissioner and two Deputy Commissioners, each of whom would serve for a single, fixed, five-year term.

3.    The Commission will have sufficiently broad jurisdiction and freedom of action to operate as a standing Royal Commission into serious and systemic corruption by Commonwealth parliamentarians or their staff, public servants, statutory office holders, the Commonwealth judiciary and the Governor-General.

4.    The Commission will be granted the investigative powers of a Royal Commission, including search and surveillance powers, the power to compel witnesses and subpoena documents and carry out its own investigations, with warrant oversight by the Federal Court.

5.    While the presumption will be that hearings will be held in private, the Commission will have discretion to hold hearings in public where it determines it is in the public interest to do so. Labor will continue to consult on the appropriate threshold for such hearings.

6.    The Commission will only be empowered to make findings of fact. Any findings that could constitute criminal conduct would be referred to the AFP or Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions.

7.    A Joint Standing Committee of the Parliament will be established to oversee the Commission and will be empowered to require the Commission to provide information about its work. That Committee will be responsible for appointing the Commissioners. The Commission will also report to Parliament on its performance annually.

In government, Labor will continue to consult with experts on the design details of the Commission.

Legislation to establish the National Integrity Commission will be introduced into Parliament within the first 12 months of a Shorten Labor Government.

Labor has spent more than a year reviewing Australia’s anti-corruption framework, consulting with experts, and considering the need for a National Integrity Commission.

The National Integrity Commission will improve the integrity of politics and the public service. It should be above politics and agreed by all parties.

Labor is ready to join with the Liberals and other interested parties to begin work on a National Integrity Commission straight away.

More information on Labor’s policy for a National Integrity Commission can be found here.

TUESDAY, 30 JANUARY 2018


Bill Shorten to the National Press Club, January 2018

We need to show some real courage.

We need to show that we’re fair-dinkum – not feathering our own nests.

That’s why – if I’m elected Prime Minister – my government will create a National Integrity Commission.

A federal body, modelled on the lessons of the state anti-corruption bodies.

The National Integrity Commission will resolve the gaps and inconsistencies in the current system, designed to ensure the highest standards in public administration.

We want to get it underway within our first year in government.

And if the Liberals and Nationals want to work with us to get it done sooner – be my guest.

This is not about partisanship – it is about trust.

I’m not putting this policy forward because I’m aware of any corrupt conduct – if I was, I would report it.

I’m doing this because I want to restore people’s faith in their representatives and their system of government.

So the following are key design principles for our National Integrity Commission.

It has to be independent and well-resourced, secure from government interference.

It needs a broad jurisdiction, effectively operating as a standing Royal Commission – with all those investigative powers – into serious and systemic corruption in the public sector.

The Commission will also have the discretion to hold public hearings, when it considers this to be in the public interest.

We would have one Commissioner and two Deputies – but importantly, appointed by the Parliament on a bipartisan basis – each serving one fixed, five-year term.

The Commission would make findings of fact, not law, and then refer them to the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions, if appropriate.

And it would report to parliament annually – overseen by a Joint Standing Committee.

This is a big move – it’s not a decision that I or my colleagues have taken lightly.

Over the last 12 months, I’ve met personally with and spoken to experts about the principles which I’ve outlined to you today.

I want the National Integrity Commission to be a clear, concrete and impartial mechanism to help restore trust, accountability and transparency in the Commonwealth sector.

This is a first step, a foundation.


Background

Every Australian has a right to feel confident that their government is open, transparent and free from corruption.

Corruption has no place in Australia – at any level of government – and governments should do everything they can to prevent it.

In recent years there has been a loss of public faith in our Commonwealth institutions.

It’s time to restore that trust, and show that we can do better.

That is why a Shorten Labor Government will establish a National Integrity Commission – a new federal anti-corruption commission tasked with investigating allegations of serious corruption, helping to prevent corruption by supporting high-risk agencies to mitigate against possible corruption, and educating the community about public sector integrity.

Labor’s National Integrity Commission will help to ensure the highest levels of public administration and restore Australians’ trust in politics and the public sector.

The problem

Each year Commonwealth public officials, including ministers and public servants, make billions of dollars’ worth of decisions about public expenditure and procurement.

Yet many of these decisions are not subjected to proper scrutiny and oversight.

Currently, there is no single, broad based body with sufficient jurisdiction to investigate matters of serious or systemic corruption at a federal level. Our ‘multi-agency’ framework for dealing with corruption is fragmented, confusing and poorly understood.

While Australia currently ranks 13th of 176 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, over the last six years Australia has dropped six places.

In January 2018, a survey of federal public servants by the Australian Public Service Commission revealed that five per cent of respondents said they had seen misconduct, with cronyism and nepotism the most common charge.

While corruption has not become a major problem in Australian political life – Labor wants to ensure that it never does.

Already, every state and territory has now established, or is in the process of establishing, anti-corruption bodies.

It’s time we held our commonwealth public officials to the same standard, and created a single, broad-based body to prevent corruption.

Labor’s solution

A Shorten Labor Government will establish a National Integrity Commission, to investigate allegations of serious corruption and restore the public’s trust in politics and the public service.

The National Integrity Commission will be based upon the following seven design principles:

• The Commission will operate as independent statutory body, with sufficient resources to ensure it is able to carry out its functions regardless of the government of the day.

• The Commission would be constituted by one Commissioner and two Deputy Commissioners, each of whom would serve for a single, fixed, five-year term.

• The Commission will have sufficiently broad jurisdiction and freedom of action to operate as a standing Royal Commission into serious and systemic corruption by Commonwealth parliamentarians or their staff, public servants, statutory office holders, the Commonwealth judiciary and the Governor-General.

• The Commission will be granted the investigative powers of a Royal Commission, including search and surveillance powers, the power to compel witnesses and subpoena documents and carry out its own investigations, with warrant oversight by the Federal Court.

• While the presumption will be that hearings will be held in private, the Commission will have discretion to hold hearings in public where it determines it is in the public interest to do so. Labor will continue to consult on the appropriate threshold for such hearings.

• The Commission will only be empowered to make findings of fact. Any findings that could constitute criminal conduct would be referred to the AFP or Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions.

• A Bipartisan Joint Standing Committee of the Parliament will be established to oversee the Commission and will be empowered to require the Commission to provide information about its work. That Committee will be responsible for appointing the Commissioners. The Commission will also report to Parliament on its performance annually.

In government, Labor will continue to consult with experts on the design details of the Commission.

Legislation to establish the National Integrity Commission will be introduced into parliament within the first 12 months of a Shorten Labor Government.

This will allow the National Integrity Commission to draw from the best experience and lessons of state based anti-corruption agencies.

The Commission will not just investigate suspected matters of serious corruption, but will also play an educative role, to help prevent serious corruption problems from developing in the first place.

Labor has spent more than a year reviewing Australia’s anti-corruption framework, consulting with experts, and considering the need for a National Integrity Commission. We have drawn on the important work of the Senate Committee into a National Integrity Taskforce, and believe now is the time to take action.

The National Integrity Commission will improve the integrity of politics and the public service. It should be above politics and agreed by all parties.

Labor is ready to join with the Liberals and other interested parties to begin work on a National Integrity Commission straight away.

Financial Implications

The financial implications of establishing a National Integrity Commission has been costed by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office at $58.7 million over the forward estimates.  The final costs of the National Integrity Commission will be determined when the specific design work is undertaken, following a consultation process.


THE HON MARK DREYFUS 
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
MEMBER FOR ISAACSMATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE – NATIONAL INTEGRITY COMMISSION

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA

WEDNESDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2018

*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***

I always welcome the opportunity to talk about Labor’s call for a National Integrity Commission but particularly, right now. This is because in the last week, if we ever needed it, the evidence supporting a federal anti-corruption body has grown stronger.

I’m glad to be speaking on this topic today with members of the crossbench, which shows the depth of support that this proposal has within this Parliament.

This week we’ve seen the allegations against the Minister for Home Affairs, which have not been denied, that he used the power of his office to help others gain employment with the Australian Border Force. I quote from The Sydney Morning Herald front page yesterday:

“Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton pressed then Customs chief Roman Quaedvlieg to help two Queensland policemen get jobs in the new Border Force agency Mr Dutton was setting up – a revelation set to escalate the political furore surrounding Mr Dutton’s decisions as immigration minister. One of the two policemen, Matt Stock, is a good friend of Mr Dutton’s, according to sources with knowledge of the events. The second man, John Lewis, is the son of corrupt former police commissioner Terry Lewis.”

The Minister for Home Affairs has not denied the substance of these allegations, merely stating that he does not believe he has done anything improper.

These are serious allegations which cannot go unanswered. If the Minister for Home Affairs thinks he can just brush them off and move on, he is sorely mistaken. We are talking here about a minister who created a new agency, Border Force, and then helped two people from his old workplace get jobs in that agency. There are serious questions to answer, and the Minister for Home Affairs has not gone anywhere near to answering them.

As strong as this recent case is, the need for a National Integrity Commission was already there.

In recent years there has been a loss of public faith in our Commonwealth institutions. Australia currently ranks 13th out of 176 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. That doesn’t sound so bad, but we were sixth on that list just six years ago.

In January 2018 a survey of federal public servants by the Australian Public Service Commission revealed that five per cent of respondents had seen misconduct in their workplaces, with cronyism and nepotism the most common charges. With scandal after scandal unfolding over recent years, many involving ministers of the Abbott and Turnbull governments, Labor believes it’s time to do what we can to restore the public’s faith and trust in their government.

Every state and territory either has already established or is in the process of establishing an anti-corruption body. It’s time we held Commonwealth public officials to the same standard and created a single broad-based body to prevent corruption.

It’s extremely disappointing to hear the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia continue to resist the establishment of a National Integrity Commission. I suppose it’s what we should expect from the government that voted 26 times against the establishment of a Royal Commission into the banks, but it is disappointing to hear the specious reasons given by the Attorney-General for not backing the establishment of a national integrity commission.

The Attorney-General said that the proposal Labor has put forward—and, I can reassure the member for Denison, remains absolutely committed to and will take to the next election—is a vague one, but the fact of the matter is that the proposal we have committed to contains seven detailed design principles.

Rightly, in addition to those principles, we have said that the fine grain of the design of a National Integrity Commission of necessity has to be left to government, because the Commonwealth already has some focused anti-corruption bodies, and any National Integrity Commission needs to mesh with those bodies, but the seven detailed design principles were put out there so that we wouldn’t get the somewhat nonsensical answer from the Attorney-General that we hadn’t given enough detail.

I invite the Attorney-General and the government to re-examine the proposal and the seven detailed design principles Labor has put forward and, having re-examined, change their position and come together with Labor to establish a National Integrity Commission, because if ever there were ever an area in which by partisanship is vital, it’s this area.


Updated: 12 September 2018