Crossbench calls for National Integrity Commission 'with teeth'

Crossbench calls for National Integrity Commission 'with teeth'

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie and her Centre Alliance Senate colleagues Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff joined other Crossbench Members this week in calling for the Government to legislate a National Integrity Commission (NIC) with "real teeth".

The MPs and Senators hosted a press conference in Parliament House on Wednesday with David Harper AM, former Victorian Supreme Court Judge and member of the Australia Institute National Integrity Committee.

Photo: Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie, centre, is flanked by Crossbench Members and representatives from Australia Institute National Integrity Committee. You can watch SBS coverage here.

“Integrity and accountability are critical features of a healthy democracy. Without a Federal Integrity Commission with teeth, public trust and confidence in our Federal Parliament will continue eroding,” Mr Harper said.

Rebekha said Independents and Minor Party Members wanted the 46th Parliament to establish a transparent, publicly accessible and properly resourced agency that could do the job the Australian people expected it to do.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity so let’s do it once and let’s do it right,” the Centre Alliance MP said.

“This is such an important area of public policy but the Government is ignoring it,” said Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick.

In particular, the Australia Institute and the Crossbench said the Government's proposed NIC model is deficient in two key areas:

  • the inability to hold public hearings if the Commissioner deems it appropriate.
  • the inability for the Commission to initiate investigations itself, and to receive complaints directly from the public.

"There’s an urgent need for a National Integrity Commission and not the woefully inadequate model the Government has put forward. The community is sick and tired of dodgy behaviour in Canberra. They want to see real action to tackle corruption – not just a pretence or half-baked measures,” said Andrew Wilkie, Independent Member for Clark.

“Australians have an expectation that the Parliament and public service meet the highest standards of integrity. We urgently need an effective, national anti-corruption body that is independent, well-resourced and with broad jurisdiction. It’s time for transparency and accountability,” said Zali Steggall, Independent Member for Warringah.

“Australians’ trust in Parliament is very low. I will work with my Crossbench colleagues in the House and Senate for the establishment of a fully-resourced commission that has independent authority to investigate, to hold public hearings, to deal effectively with political and public sector misconduct and corruption and to publish its findings. This is a clear way forward to restore trust in our Parliament,” said Helen Haines, Independent Member for Indi.

“The Parliament is less than four weeks old and already we have seen four cases that would have been referred to a Federal ICAC and according to the Government, there’s nothing to see here? It’s disgraceful – we need to get the dirty money out of politics and a Federal ICAC with teeth is the way to do it,” said Senator Jacqui Lambie, Independent Senator for Tasmania.

“I will introduce legislation for a Federal ICAC with teeth. The latest Crown saga reinforces the need for a real ICAC,” said Adam Bandt, Greens Member for Melbourne.

The Australia Institute National Integrity Committee of retired Judges has put forward a design blueprint and implementation plan for any National Integrity Commission.

At the press conference, Mr Harper was asked if a NIC could investigate recent media allegations regarding Crown Casino's links to organised crime, money laundering and improper activity by consular officials.

Mr Harper said he was only familiar with the information presented in the media reports but the allegations were serious enough to warrant consideration for investigation by a NIC.

Attorney-General Christian Porter has since announced that the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission — Australia’s peak criminal intelligence agency — would be investigating potential criminal allegations relating to casinos.

On Tuesday Rebekha seconded a motion by the Member for Clark, Andre Wilkie, to set up a Joint Select Committee to examine the Crown Casino allegations and alleged connections to Ministers and former Ministers.

"Every day in this place—every single day—we are given yet another reason why we need a federal integrity commission right now. We need one that is well funded and that is not kicked further down the road," Rebekha said in her speech.