‘Further delays to establishing an effective anti-corruption agency is a heartbreaking disappointment to the millions of Australians seeking a better kind of politics.’ Said Serena Lillywhite, CEO of Transparency International Australia.
‘Like many governments around the world, the Australian Government appears to be using the double health and economic emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic to sidestep accountability, control, oversight and scrutiny of political decisions, economic bailouts and the use of executive and discretionary powers.
‘Times of emergencies – including COVID-19 – create corruption risks. The need for transparency, accountability and political integrity has never been more important.
‘In times of emergency, corruption and violations of our standards of political integrity can undermine our democratic processes because the usual safeguards and oversight mechanisms are not in force.
‘These concerns have been raised by the Select Committee on COVID-19, which has struggled to get straight answers. Even Coalition MPs have called for increased scrutiny of legislation that is being rushed through in response to the COVID crisis.
‘COVID-19 is disrupting more than our health and economic wellbeing, it is disrupting the role and function of political oversight. Now is not the time to put integrity on hold and kick the Commonwealth Integrity Commission can down the road.
‘Transparency International Australia, along with numerous civil-society and community organisations, legal experts and the overwhelming majority of the Australian public, have been calling for a strong anti-corruption watchdog for years.
‘A Commonwealth Integrity Commission was an election promise of the Federal Coalition – when will this promise be met?
‘There have been too many years of debate and delay. We finally have bipartisan commitment on an anti-corruption watchdog – so let’s get on with the job.
‘The Attorney General claims the works been done, the draft legislation is ready for public and parliamentary feedback – so let’s see it, and let’s set a time frame.
‘The Government must not waste its historic opportunity to create a better form of politics and kick-start the Commonwealth Integrity Commission.
‘While we wait, impressive work has been done to establish the fundamentals of any good anti-corruption agency. The Beechworth Principles provide the basis for an integrity commission that all political parties and independents can and should support.’