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.

Media Release: Australia’s stagnation on global corruption ranking reinforces need for quality reform

29 January 2019

Transparency International’s landmark annual report has put Australia in 13thplace. The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is the most widely used indicator of corruption worldwide. It assesses the level of public sector corruption in each of the world’s 180 countries according to data sources from expert independent institutions.

 

‘Over the past seven years, Australia has slipped 8 points in Transparency International’s global ranking.’ Transparency International Australia CEO, Serena Lillywhite said.

 

‘Australia used to rank among the top ten least-corrupt countries. We fell out of the league of world-leading nations back in 2014 and continuously fail to lift our game.

 

‘The perception of experts mirror that of ordinary Australians: our survey found an alarming level of declining trust in our elected representatives. 85 per cent of Australians now think at least “some” federal politicians are corrupt.

 

‘Despite these worrying downward trends, Australia has not done enough to inject much-needed accountability and transparency into our politics.

 

‘The theme of this year’s CPI report focuses on democracy because of the strong correlation between corruption and autocracy. When our democratic institutions are transparent and accountable, our democracy is healthy and robust.

 

‘The strong message that resonates throughout Transparency International’s analysis is that to control corruption, governments the world over need to strengthen the institutions that provide democratic checks and balances and protect people’s rights.

 

‘Strengthening our democracy must be a priority for 2019. It is great that most of our parliament now supports some form of national anti-corruption agency, but theGovernment’s proposed model does not go far enough. The National Integrity Bills proposed by Cathy McGowan MP provide a more comprehensive and coordinated approach to addressing issues of parliamentary integrity and preventing, detecting, investigating and disclosing corruption.’

 

‘Now is the time, without delay and political wrangling, for our Federal Parliament to come together and create a well-resourced, nationally coordinated pro-integrity framework, with an emphasis on prevention alongside strong investigative powers.’

 

For more information on Transparency International Australia’s views on best practice for a national anti-corruption and integrity framework, please find our recent submission to the National Integrity Commission bills.

Media Release: Critical first step to strengthening integrity

13 December 2018

Transparency International Australia welcomes the Government’s announcement of a Commonwealth Integrity Commission, but calls for stronger powers to fight corruption and improve transparency.

Transparency International Australia’s CEO, Serena Lillywhite said, ‘we have long called for a federal agency to fight corruption and strengthen the integrity of our public officials. This is a critical step to rebuilding trust in the institutions of our democracy.

‘We are pleased the Government has accepted the evidence that we need a national integrity agency, and we look forward to working with government and the Federal Parliament to advance this important reform.

‘It is important that Australia adopts the best model for the new commission so that we don’t end up with a toothless tiger.’

TIA Chair, Fiona McLeod SC said, ‘we look forward to seeing more detail on how the coordination role will work and how the commission will be empowered and resourced to prevent corruption. It is important that any new offence of corruption under the Commonwealth Criminal Code be carefully designed.

‘The new commission should have a strong coordination role for all agencies and the power to hold public hearings for all matters where it is in the public interest to do so.

‘We would like the new integrity regime to also include parliamentary standards for elected officials and their staff, and good mechanisms for the public and whistleblowers to provide information or make complaints.’

 

 

Media Release: Light at the End of the Tunnel for Whistleblowers

5 December 2018

Transparency International Australia welcomes urgently needed amendments to Australia’s corporate whistleblower protection laws, due for debate in the Senate today, and calls on all parties to bring on the debate and support their passage.

Transparency International Australia has worked with the community, with the Coalition Government and crossbench MPs on sound improvements to legislation to support whistleblowers. The proposed legislation will now allow corporate whistleblowers to go public, relatively simply, if a regulator fails to act within 90 days.

‘This is the long overdue first step towards ensuring whistleblowers receive the support and protection they deserve when they lift the lid on corruption and dodgy deals in the private sector’, said Serena Lillywhite, CEO of Transparency International Australia.

‘The importance of this legislation cannot be ignored. It’s a wakeup call for companies, and it will help ensure regulators do their job.

‘For far too long whistleblowers in Australia have been left to hang out to dry, often at immense personal cost to their health, their wellbeing and their careers, for simply doing the right thing and exposing wrongdoing.

‘Without the brave actions of whistleblowers like Jeff Morris, we may never have had the Banking Royal Commission. Without the actions of James Shelton and Brian Hood, we may never have known of Australia’s biggest corruption scandal – the bribery of foreign officials by the Reserve Bank subsidiaries Securency and Note Printing Australia – to win lucrative currency printing contracts.

‘James Shelton and Brian Hood’s long ordeal to seek justice in Australia’s biggest corruption scandal demonstrates the need for compensation.

‘There is more to be done, as recommended by last year’s Parliamentary Joint Committee.

‘These laws have to be shown to work, protection for public sector whistleblowers is lagging, and we need a whistleblower protection authority to support all public and private sector whistleblowers, and ensure these remedies are real.

‘The recent case of Rebecca Connor is another case in point.  The New South Wales Department of Planning sacked Ms Connor, a senior planning manager, allegedly for raising concerns about corruption linked to Hunter mine titles and approvals in 2017.’

‘The amendments to overhaul protection for corporate employees will help ensure Australian companies conduct their activities legally and with integrity, both in their Australian operations and abroad,’ said Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of Transparency International Australia.

‘The amendments will provide stronger legal protection in cases where a whistleblower contacts the media.

‘Now, companies face the world’s first ever requirement to not simply have a policy on paper, but spell out exactly how they plan to “support and protect” those who speak up, before anyone starts taking out reprisals.

‘Those who choose to be a whistleblower will never have an easy ride, but these new rules will provide much needed support for whistleblowers, and another legal driver for responsible business conduct and for corporate transparency and accountability.’