The Centre for Public Integrity has slammed the Morrison Government’s proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC), which it argues would be “the weakest watchdog in the country if implemented” designed to “hide corruption, not expose it”:
The analysis of State and Territory integrity commissions concludes that the strongest and most effective integrity commissions in New South Wales and Queensland share the following powers:
The ability to investigate any conduct of any person that affects the impartial exercise of public administration. This allows investigation of those outside the public service who seek to unduly influence public decision making, and does not limit investigations to criminal conduct.
- The ability to begin investigations without satisfying a threshold of evidence, meaning that investigations are used in their appropriate function of finding out whether any misconduct has occurred.
- The ability to hold public hearings if in the public interest.
- The ability to make findings and report publicly
These powers feature in both independent MP Helen Haines’ Bill and the model proposed by the ALP; in contrast, none of them is a feature of the Government’s proposed CIC.
“The Government’s proposed CIC would be the weakest watchdog in the country,” said Anthony Whealy QC, former judge and Chair of the Centre for Public Integrity.
“It would not be able to begin investigations into the majority of cases, as it is limited to only investigating a specific list of criminal offences,” said Mr Whealy.
“It would hide corruption, not expose it. The inability to hold public hearings and table reports would mean the public is left in the dark,” said Stephen Charles QC, former judge and director of the Centre for Public Integrity.
“The CIC falls short of its state counterparts on almost every level. It is a breed of its own and does not deserve to be a called a watchdog,” said Mr Charles.
Table 1 from the paper compares the features of State and Territory integrity commissions, as well as the models proposed by the Federal Government, the ALP, independent MP Helen Haines and Greens Senator Larissa Waters:
As you can see, the proposed CIC lags behind in almost every area. According to the Centre for Public Integrity:
It would not be able to investigate the 2021 Commuter Car Park Project pork-barrelling allegations, the 2020 Sports Grants scandal, the 2019 Crown Casino scandal, allegations of conflict of interest (such as the 2019 allegations involving Minister Angus Taylor’s family business), or potential breaches of the Ministerial Code of Conduct (such as those alleged in 2019 to have been committed by Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop).
Clearly, the CIC is another attempt by the Morrison Government of trying to appear like it taking action, while delivering nothing of substance.
It is another gimmick pulled straight from ‘Scotty from Marketing’s’ playbook.