Media Release: A Federal Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission on the Horizon

30 January 2018

‘A Federal Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission on the Horizon’

Transparency International Australia welcomes the pledge today by the Hon Bill Shorten MP, that Labor will establish a federal anti-corruption body if it wins the next election.

Transparency International Australia, is part of a global coalition to fight corruption and promote transparency, integrity and accountability at all levels and across all sectors of society, including in government. This work has included years of campaigning to strengthen Australia’s integrity systems, and repeated calls, to all political parties, to establish a federal ant-corruption agency.

“With growing public distrust of government, and most Australians holding a view there is corruption in federal politics, a well-resourced independent National Integrity Commission to promote integrity and accountability, and to prevent, investigate and expose corruption, is a matter of urgency and has overwhelming public support”, said Transparency International Australia CEO, Serena Lillywhite.

“Australia needs a well-designed, broad-based federal anti-corruption agency, as part of an enhanced multi-agency strategy, to ensure a comprehensive approach to corruption risks beyond the criminal investigation system, and to support stronger parliamentary integrity”, she said.

“Effective institutions to prevent, detect, expose and remedy official corruption are vital at all levels of government.  The absence of an overarching agency of this type at a federal level is a stark deficiency in the eyes of the community”, said Lillywhite.

Transparency International Australia has made clear its view that a federal anti-corruption agency needs to possess the wide range of coercive and investigative powers commonly found in state agencies, including public hearings in proper situations to assist inquiry effectiveness and public interest, essential to the effective operation of an anti-corruption agency.

“Anti-corruption agencies must have the power to make such public findings and recommendations, to ensure that Governments act to remedy corruption, in circumstances where powerful interests may have previously prevented this from occurring, or the Government itself is implicated”, said Anthony Whealy, QC, Chair of Transparency International Australia.

“Mechanisms and resources need to be in place to ensure that when corruption problems are identified, appropriate sanctions or remedies are actually implemented, and in a timely and visible way. For criminal matters, the Commission should be empowered to make findings of fact, and to be referred to a well-resourced and specialized unit within the DPP, for consideration for prosecution”, he said.

The issue of ‘revolving doors’ and ‘conflict of interest’ can no longer be ignored in Australia.

In 2017, Transparency International Australia undertook research into the mining approvals process in Australia. The report, Corruption Risks: Mining Approvals in Australia has identified a high potential for industry influence and state and policy capture in the awarding of mining approvals and related infrastructure projects.

“Greater regulation of political donations, lobbyists and the movement of staff between government and industry, would help reduce risks that can enable corruption to occur. ‘Revolving doors’ and a ‘culture of mateship’ are undermining our national integrity systems and could be tackled by a federal integrity and anti-corruption agency”, said Lillywhite.

A commitment to establish a such an agency is welcome, but as always, the devil is in the detail.

Transparency International Australia and Griffith University’s National Integrity Systems Assessment, will provide the rigorous evidence base to illuminate a detailed design for a federal integrity and anti-corruption agency. At the end of the day, the independence, resources, and investigative powers of such an agency, will be its make or break.

For further information please contact:

Serena Lillywhite, CEO, Transparency International Australia

0403 436 896

See Transparency International Australia’s work with Griffith University on the National Integrity Systems Assessment