Media Release: A federal anti-corruption watchdog is long overdue. And it better not disappoint.

2 August 2019

A federal anti-corruption watchdog is long overdue. And it better not disappoint.

The events of this past week – involving a litany of crime and corruption scandals with possible links to Crown and other casinos – have demonstrated unequivocally that Australia needs a strong anti-corruption agency.

‘The Labor party took a strong position to the federal election to fight for an agency that would have wide powers, hold public hearings and receive complaints from the public. In spite of media reports today that the party room debated this policy, it must remain committed to this vision,’ said Transparency International Australia CEO Serena Lillywhite.

‘We remain unconvinced that the Coalition Government’s anti-corruption model will go anywhere near far enough. It is too weak to effectively prevent or tackle corruption. It’s simply not fit for purpose.

‘The previous Parliament recognised the strong support of the Australian people for a better democracy: one governed with integrity and with strong mechanisms to combat corruption.

‘For the first time in Australia’s history, we saw support across the Parliament for a national anti-corruption agency and better political integrity. We must not lose that momentum.

‘Every other week there is some kind of national corruption scandal. Unless we close the gaping holes in Australia’s political integrity and business conduct, these corruption scandals will continue.

‘Australia’s political integrity system needs an overhaul. Beyond a federal anti-corruption agency, we need measures to instil greater integrity across our elected representatives and public servants. This includes:

  • A strong code of conduct for all politicians
  • A stop to the incessant revolving door between politics and business, and greater checks on high-powered lobbying and donations
  • And, as the Crown Casino scandal has highlighted, stronger anti-money laundering legislation. Transparency International Australia has also long advocated for expanding this legislation to cover real estate agents, lawyers and accountants – industries that are also exposed to money laundering.

‘As the scandals surrounding Crown now irrefutable demonstrate, Australia urgently needs a strong anti-corruption agency and integrity framework. Our parliament must not waver in its promise to the Australian people.’

Media Release: Ministerial Standards unfit for purpose

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Transparency International Australia fully supports a Senate Inquiry to review the Ministerial Standards.

Transparency International Australia has long called for higher standards for parliamentary conduct. Before the last federal election, we asked the major political parties and Independents to commit to establishing a code of conduct for allmembers of the federal parliament.

‘We fully support a Senate Inquiry to review the Ministerial Standards,’ said Transparency International Australia CEO Serena Lillywhite, ‘andit should go further – all federal members of parliament should abide by a code of conduct, and oversight moved from the Office of the Prime Minister.’

The Senate Inquiry should consider:

  • the adequacy and reach of the Ministerial Standards,
  • how to better regulate, investigate and enforce standards,
  • public interest accountability mechanisms,
  • registration, transparency and accountability of all lobbyists; and
  • disclosure provisions.

‘We expect higher standards of our elected representatives and appointed officials.

‘The latest scandal of ‘revolving doors’ demonstrates yet again why we need stronger rules and independent parliamentary standards oversight to protect the public’s best interest.

‘The fact that ministers can so quickly and easily step from public office to company payroll risks distorting vitally important policy decisions. When serving the public, our elected representatives must put the public’s best interest first. If they have one eye on their future employer, how do we know what decisions are motivated by the public’s best interest, and what are motivated by a company’s best interest? And how can we ensure companies do not receive unfair access to sensitive government information?

‘Most other state parliaments, all federal public servants, many workplaces and the not-for-profit sector must abide by a code of conduct – and yet members of the Australian Parliament, despite all the powers and responsibilities vested in them, do not have a code of conduct.

‘Lobbying also must be open to examination. While lobbying may be private, parliamentarians must act at all times in the public interest when engaging with lobbyists and making decisions. Secrecy breeds a culture of non-disclosure and undermines the public’s trust in government decisions.

‘The purpose of a code of conduct is to ensure that our elected representatives and appointed officials put the public’s best interest first, act with integrity, and are accountable to the Australian public.’

‘It is a small but meaningful step towards a Parliament that operates with greater integrity. Meanwhile, establishing a National Integrity Commission – with broad scope to investigate, make findings of fact and hold public hearings, should remain a priority for a stronger integrity framework.’

Media Release: TIA welcomes Attorney-General’s commitment to better support whistleblowers

Friday 21 June 2019

Reports today that Attorney-General Christian Porter is opening the door to reforms that better support our federal public servants to blow the whistle is welcome news.’ said Transparency International Australia CEO Serena Lillywhite.

‘A healthy democracy depends on the ability to hold decision-makers to account, and for that we need transparency. Whistleblowers play a crucial role in exposing wrong-doing – we should value their contributions and support them to speak out.

‘Mr Porter’s interest in strengthening a pro-disclosure culture goes to the heart of the reforms we need. With greater transparency and a commitment to accountability and integrity, we prevent corruption and misconduct before it occurs.

‘The recent Australian Federal Police raids on journalists’ homes and offices risk having a chilling effect on public servants who want to blow the whistle on wrong-doing. These raids and the court cases against prominent whistleblowers demonstrate that Australia’s federal whistleblower protection law needs to be reformed, and our media better supported to expose crime and misconduct.

‘Earlier this year, Australia led the world with its new improvements to private sector whistleblowing laws. Because these reforms set out a pro-active approach to supporting and valuing whistleblowers, they have the power to inspire a culture-changing shift towards greater accountability and integrity. Our public servants deserve the same high standards of protection and support.

‘Importantly, a strong pro-integrity system also requires an independent whistleblower protection authority with the right skills and the responsibility to support to all whistleblowers.

‘We look forward to working with the Government on these important reforms to strengthen our democracy.’

 

Media release: Coalition missing in action on anti-corruption commitments

10 May 2019

Transparency International Australia (TIA) has written to the major parties asking what action they will take in the next parliament to strengthen parliamentary integrity and our democracy.*

‘We are disappointed that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has failed to respond to our request for transparency on their commitment to parliamentary integrity and democratic reforms.’ Said TIA CEO Serena Lillywhite.

‘We are pleased to see strong commitments from the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens, as well as former whistleblower, Independent MP Andrew Wilkie.

‘We welcome their cross-party support for a national anti-corruption and integrity agency with strong powers; disclosing political donations above $1000; better protection for whistleblowers and stronger action on global transparency and anti-corruption efforts.

‘We welcome the ALP’s commitment to develop a robust and detailed anti-corruption plan of action. We need this to ensure the commitments made are acted upon and the government can be held to account.

‘This federal election campaign has been rocked by a series of corruption and integrity scandals – from problematic Murray Darling water deals, to questionable hospital sales, rushed approvals for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, travel rorts and questionable conflicts of interest – and Cayman Islands tax avoidance schemes have come up a little too often.

‘Australians are fed up with corruption and a flawed political system that gives power to the highest bidder and allows politicians to swap favours with industry mates.

Our research found 85 per cent of Australians think at least some federal politicians are corrupt, and a majority of people want a national anti-corruption agency.

‘Transparency International Australia has identified five priority reforms that would go a long way to improving the integrity and accountability of our democratic system and restore the public’s trust in public office.

‘These include caps on political donations, controls over political lobbying, a robust code of conduct for all parliamentarians, better protection for whistleblowers, stronger action on global anti-corruption efforts, and of course a national anti-corruption and integrity agency.

‘At a time when Australians are almost daily rocked by corruption scandals or allegations of breaches of integrity by our federal parliamentarians – these reforms should be prioritized by all politicians who aspire to work in a well-functioning new parliament.

‘All political promises, all reform commitments, the whole agenda of the next parliament depend on a government that is transparent, accountable and acts with integrity.’

*The detailed responses from the ALP, the Greens and Independent MP Andrew Wilkie can be found on our website

Our five national integrity reform priorities can be found here

Where do the major parties stand on national integrity reform?

Transparency International Australia has written to the major political parties and Independents who have indicated support for national integrity reforms, asking what action they will take in the next parliament to strengthen parliamentary integrity and our democracy.

We have received responses from the Australian Labor Party, the Australian Greens and Independent MP Andrew Wilkie.

Read our media release in response to these letters here

Read our five national integrity reform priorities here

Read our draft report Governing for Integrity here

You can find the parties’ responses to our national integrity reform priorities here:

Response from the Australian Labor Party

Response from the Australian Greens

Response from Mr Andrew Wilkie MP

Response from Rebekha Sharkie MP (Centre Alliance)

Media Release: key priorities for Election 2019

15 April 2019

Today, Transparency International Australia is launching its top priorities for reform to strengthen transparency and accountability under the next federal parliament, as political integrity issues shape up as central to Election 2019.

‘The overwhelming majority of our federal politicians now supports a better system to tackle corruption and promote political integrity across our government and parliament,’ said Dr Nicole Bieske, acting CEO of Transparency International Australia.

‘Our five priority areas for action now challenge all parties to answer the question: how do we take forward that momentum to bring out the best in our democracy?’

‘Proposals so far for a federal corruption watchdog are just a first step – both major parties need to back a larger plan for promoting political integrity to ensure our democracy is as fair and representative as can be.’

‘We want to fix the flaws in the system – where the people with the most money get the best access to politicians, and people who blow the whistle on crime and corruption are silenced.’

Our research shows federal reforms to fight corruption and ensure political integrity require $100 million a year, but so far the Coalition’s budget promises only $42 million and Labor has flagged less than $20 million for their federal anti-corruption agency proposals,’ said Professor A J Brown,Transparency International Australia board member and Professor of Public Policy & Law at Griffith University.

‘Our lengthy discussions with experts and everyday Australians alike point us towards clear priorities for reform:

  • A strong and properly resourced National Integrity Commission– one that goes beyond punishing corruption and fosters the highest level of integrity across our government and parliament.
  • Fair, transparent and nationally consistent rules for controlling political donations – so that our elected representatives put the public’s best interest first, not those who pay the most.
  • Strong rules around lobbying and a parliamentary code of conduct to stop conflicts of interest and put the public’s best interest first.
  • A strong whistleblower protection authority – because whistleblowers’ contribution to exposing wrong-doing helps us all.
  • We need to be a better member of the international community – and act to stop the flow of dirty money into Australia, reform foreign bribery law, stop the use of anonymous shell companies as vehicles for corruption and wrongdoing, and join important global initiatives to promote transparency.’

‘We call on all political parties and independents to commit to adequately funding this important reform agenda and join our plan of action to promote the highest levels of integrity for our democracy’, Dr Bieske concluded.

Media contact: Alex Lamb 0466 976 602

 

Transparency International Australia’s National Integrity Priorities will be presented today to the National Integrity Forum in Parliament House, Canberra. They can be downloaded here.

The full suite of draft recommendations to come out of our National Integrity Systems Assessment can be found here: http://transparency.org.au/blueprint-for-reform/

 Governing for Integrity a blueprint for reform presents draft recommendations based on wide-ranging consultations with experts, government agencies and everyday Australians and is open to further submissions until 10 May.

Blueprint for reform

How do we ensure greater transparency, accountability, and integrity across our government and political system?

Every major political party and Independent has agreed on the need for reform. But what shape will these reforms take?

In this latest piece of research, Governing for Integrity – a blueprint for reform, we present draft recommendations based on wide-ranging consultations with experts, government agencies and everyday Australians.

In this draft report we present the architecture of a new system – one that goes beyond punishing corruption and fosters the highest level of integrity across our government and parliament.

We invite you to consider these recommendations and join our conversation about how we can bring about the best of our democracy.

This draft report was launched at the National Integrity Forum in Melbourne on April 3, and the discussions will continue at another forum in Canberra on April 15th, in partnership with the Accountability Round Table and Griffith University.

Submissions, comments and responses to the draft report are welcome by 10 May.

Please send them to nationalintegrity@griffith.edu.au 

 

Download the full report here

Download the summary here

See our media release here

A blueprint for reform

How do we ensure greater transparency, accountability, and integrity across our government and political system?

Every major political party and Independent has agreed on the need for reform. But what shape will these reforms take?

In this latest piece of research, Governing with Integrity – a blueprint for reform, we present draft recommendations based on wide-ranging consultations with experts, government agencies and everyday Australians.

In this draft report we present the architecture of a new system – one that goes beyond punishing corruption and fosters the highest level of integrity across our government and parliament.

We invite you to consider these recommendations and join our conversation about how we can bring about the best of our democracy.

Thisdraft report was launched at the National Integrity Forum in Melbourne on April 3, and the discussions will continue at another forum in Canberra on April 15th, in partnership with the Accountability Round Table and Griffith University. Submissions, comments and responses to the draft report are welcome by 10 May. Please send them to nationalintegrity@griffith.edu.au 

 

Download the full report here

Download the summary here

See our media release here

Media Release: Turning integrity promises into a plan of action for election 2019

04 April 2019

 

Transparency International Australia has announced the release of draft recommendations from Australia’s second National Integrity System Assessment – sweeping research on how to strengthen the accountability and integrity of government.Governing for Integrity – a blueprint for reform presents draft recommendations based on wide-ranging consultations with experts, government agencies and everyday Australians.

 

‘This detailed research puts more meat on the bones of the promises made by all major political parties and Independents, as integrity reform becomes a key election issue’ said Serena Lillywhite, CEO of Transparency International Australia.

 

‘The question is no longer “will we have an anti-corruption watchdog”,it is “how can we have the best one for our democracy” and what else is needed beyond simply that one reform?’

 

‘In this draft report we present the architecture of a new system – one that goes beyond punishing corruption and fosters the highest level of integrity across our government and parliament.

 

‘These recommendations are the start of the deeper conversation Australians need to have about how we can bring out the best of our democracy.’

 

Professor A J Brown, TI Australia board member and Professor of Public Policy & Law at Griffith University, led the assessment and presented the draft recommendations to today’s Tackling Corruption Together conference in Melbourne.

 

‘Major recommendations focus on the national integrity commission – why it must have a broad, truly nationalfocus; why it must not be limited to just criminal corruption; why it needs strong and clearer public hearing powers; and why there must be a strong framework of mandatory real-time reporting of corruption issues. These features are missing from some proposals, especially the Commonwealth Government’s’ said Professor A J Brown.

 

‘We estimate that Australia needs to spend $100 million a year for a strong, effective and well-coordinated system that clamps down on corruption and promotes political integrity across all government functions.

 

‘While the Coalition Government has promised 30 per cent more resources to its proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission than the Australian Labor Party, neither party has committed adequate funds, and neither party has a monopoly on how to get this right.’

 

‘With public trust in politicians at an all-time low, and overwhelming frustration at the lack of political integrity and corruption, we call on all parties to respond to these proposals and show their commitment to a strong national framework for democratic reform.’

 

The draft report will also be presented for comment and discussion at a second National Integrity Forum scheduled for Canberra on 15 April. Submissions, comments and responses to the draft report are welcome by 10 May via nationalintegrity@griffith.edu.au

 

Download the summary of the report here

Download the full report here

 

Media contact: Alex Lamb 0466 976 602

 

TIA Chair steps down

Transparency International Australia (TIA) is a non-partisan organisation, committed to combatting bribery and corruption. Fiona McLeod SC, as Chair and Director of TIA, has stepped down from these roles, effective 22 March 2019, in order to contest the seat of Higgins at the federal election. In the interim, Peter Moore will be the Acting Chair of TIA pending the appointment of the next chair.

See the full list of board members here.