Labor has indicated that its proposed national anti-corruption commission will be given powers to investigate misconduct retrospectively. Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus has indicated that the commission is likely to have the power to investigate corruption or misconduct that is alleged to have occurred up to 15 years ago. Dreyfus adds that politicians and public servants could face scrutiny even if they are no longer in public office.
The anti-corruption commissions in NSW and Victoria also have retrospective powers.
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Unlike the Coalition, Labor has promised to create an integrity body with retrospective powers, meaning it could examine decisions taken before the commission came into being.
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said in an interview there was “every reason” to believe Labor’s integrity commission would investigate alleged misconduct conduct that occurred 10 to 15 years ago – especially if the politicians or public servants in question remain in senior positions.
“Once the commission is established, not only will the commissioners be able to respond to allegations that occurred in the past – it might be that they occurred a long time ago,” he said.
A 15-year time span would cover the end of John Howard’s prime ministership, as well as decisions made under successors Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison.
“There is no barrier to Labor’s commission looking into the past,” Dreyfus said. “It will entirely be a matter for the commissioners to decide upon.”
Labor’s proposed anti-corruption commission could pose a serious problem for the Coalition, which has featured in many instances of alleged corruption over its nine years in office.
Accordingly, Transparency International has recorded a stunning decline in Australia’s Corruption Perceptions Index over the Coalition’s term:
Earlier this week, Teal candidates backed an even stronger anti-corruption commission that would have the power to start its own investigations, conduct its hearings in public and investigate wrongdoings retrospectively, and examine the misuse of public funds “for political or private gain”.
This came as the Coalition has targeted 10 marginal seats with almost $3 billion worth of pork over this election campaign. This includes some $500 million worth of spending pledges in the Tasmanian seat of Bass, which is held by Liberal MP Bridget Archer on a margin of just 0.4%. Other Coalition-held seats that have benefited from the government’s pork barreling include Lindsay in NSW and Leichhardt in Queensland, as well as Labor-held seats such as McEwen in Victoria.
In contrast, Labor has pledged to spend only $1 billion in 10 of the most marginal seats.
While all governments make spurious decisions, it is hard to deny that this Coalition government is the most corrupt in modern history.
Only a warts-and-all anti-corruption commission like Labor has proposed can prevent such corruption in the future. It’s time to drain the swamp.