Committee backs legislation for national anti-corruption body

The federal government says it is determined to have a national anti-corruption commission up and running by 2023 after a parliamentary committee endorsed the legislation to set it up.

Helen Haines

The joint select committee last Thursday tabled a unanimous report backing the government’s draft law to establish the National Anti-Corruption Commission, with the inquiry’s deputy chair Helen Haines describing it as “very, very good legislation” that will establish a powerful federal anti corruption body.

The bill establishes the office of an independent commissioner and up to three deputy commissioners with power to investigate corrupt conduct in the federal public sector, covering ministers, MPs, political staffers, government contractors, public servants and statutory officeholders.

Dr Haines said she was confidence the parliament would accept the report’s six recommendations, which include extending protection of journalists sources and broadening the issues the commissioner can consider.

Disquiet over public hearings clause

However she said the inclusion of ‘exceptional circumstances’ as a test for public hearings had been raised as a concern in many submissions to the committee.

Under the legislation, hearings will by default be held in private but the Commissioner will have the discretion to hold public hearings where it’s considered justified by exceptional circumstances.

Dr Haines says she’ll argue to have that clause removed, as well as for more independence for the oversight committee and better clarity on whistle blower protection.

“We took quite a bit of evidence around (exceptional circumstances) and in my view, having heard that evidence, I  consider it unnecessary to have the exceptional circumstances clause. So I’ll put forward an amendment and argue my case in the House about removing that,” she told the ABC.

“There’s more things that can be improved but overall I would have to say we’re dealing with a piece of legislation that will bring us the anticorruption legislation that we’ve been calling for for so many years.”

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus told parliament after the tabling of the report that the legislation would establish a powerful, transparent and independent national anticorruption commission.

“This is the biggest single integrity reform this parliament has seen for decades. It is a key pillar in this government’s plan to restore integrity, honesty and accountability to government. We will deliver on this key election commitment,” he said.

“The government will now carefully consider this report and its recommendations ahead of the resumption of debate on the NACC Bill in the next session of parliament.

“We are determined to pass this legislation by year’s end and have the commission up and running by mid-2023.”

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2 thoughts on “Committee backs legislation for national anti-corruption body

  1. This is so mportant to restore our confidence in our democracy and stamp out the rorting and jobs for the boys cultute !

  2. Don’t hold your breath, but it seems likely that finally we will have some sense of a Government watchdog. After years of the endless miss-dealings that could be easily seen by the Public as shonky,
    That’s perceived as eroding the confidence in Governments integrity and ability to govern fairly.
    The removal of the exemption clause on Public hearings would go along way to give this new agency teeth, in the eyes of the public. and would save us from calls for Royal commissions that cost Mega $’s

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