In a time of sports rorts, travel rorts, conflicts of interest and undue influence, Australia needs a strong, fit-for-purpose national integrity commission, an anti-corruption advocacy organisation says.
A discussion paper released by Transparency International Australia this month says the current focus on COVID shouldn’t distract from the fact that the Commonwealth is the only jurisdiction without an independent, specialist anti-corruption agency.
It comes amid renewed pressure for the government to act on its two-year-old promise to set up a Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC) to stamp out public sector corruption.
If we do not tend to it now, political accountability, integrity and the high standards Australians expect of our elected representatives and public servants will continue to fall through the cracks.Transparency International
Establishing an independent anticorruption commissioner with broad powers to investigate corruption and misconduct will help promote public trust in the Commonwealth public sector and Australia’s system of government, the paper says.
“If we do not tend to it now, political accountability, integrity and the high standards Australians expect of our elected representatives and public servants will continue to fall through the cracks,” it says.
The Group says its Corruption Perceptions Index shows Australia’s ranking on the global corruption scale has fallen steadily since 2012, and the nation needs a stronger framework for ensuring national integrity centred around an independent commission, strengthened oversight of lobbyists and better whistleblower protections.
Transparency International says an integrity commission must have broad jurisdiction to investigate all public officials, independent power to conduct its own investigations and refer matters for prosecution and the ability to hold public hearings, as well as adequate and guaranteed resources.
The federal government announced it would establish a CIC in December 2018 and the 2019-20 federal budget committed $104.5 million over four years to fund it, although the model has been criticised as being narrow, weak and underfunded.
Attorney General Christian Porter, who earlier this year blamed COVID for the latest delay to the stalled plan, committed to it in June in a move that was welcomed by Tansparency International.
“We welcome Mr Porter’s approach to working in a collaborative manner across the Parliament, and with the different civil-society groups that have been calling for a better form of politics and the establishment of a national integrity commission for many, many years,” CEO Serena Lillywhite said.
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