Victoria gets ball rolling on new MP integrity watchdog

Victoria has begun consultation for a new Parliamentary Integrity Commission with power to investigate allegations of misconduct by MPs and minsters, including inappropriate workplace behaviour.

Jacinta Allan

Proposed legislation, to be introduced next year,  implements key recommendations of the 2022 joint IBAC and Ombudsman’s report on Operation Watts, which uncovered what was described as a ‘catalogue of unethical and inappropriate behaviour’ including nepotism, bullying, and attempts to interfere with government grants processes.

Premier Jacinta Allan says it represents the “the most significant overhaul of parliamentary oversight in the country”, and that the consultation process will ensure the highest standards of conduct from MPS.

Members of the public will be able to bring issues to the three-person commission, which will consider matters including bullying, sexual harassment and misuse of allowances.

“This is every member of parliament’s workplace, but it is also a workplace for so many other staff and for too long the standards haven’t kept pace with modern expectations,” Ms Allan told reporters on Tuesday. 

“We have to make sure that we have in place an integrity framework and a reporting framework, particularly in cases of workplace harassment, particularly of a serious nature, that victims can feel they have a process … where their complaint will be handled sensitively but thoroughly.”

The Bill also establishes a a joint Parliamentary Ethics Committee, improves whistleblower mechanisms and enshrines a parliamentary integrity adviser in legislation.

The government says the integrity commission model draws on modern workplace standards including integrity frameworks in other jurisdictions.

“Victorians deserve to have confidence in the political parties and public institutions that serve them – that’s why the government has been working hard to implement every one of Operation Watts‘ recommendations,“ Attorney General Jaclyn Symes said in a statement.

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