Submission to the Joint Select Committee on National Anti-Corruption Commission Legislation


Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Corruption in our federal system of government is one of Australia’s greatest challenges. It undermines good government, distorts public policy, frustrates business opportunities and leads to waste, mismanagement and exploitation.

In 2022, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index revealed Australia is in 18th place, scoring just 73 points on the 100-point scale. This is the worst result Australia has recorded.

To be clear, the national anti-corruption commission is the most important integrity reform we’ve seen in the past forty years.

While the proposed legislation is 90 per cent there, our submission details important areas that will make the national anti-corruption commission as effective as possible in combatting corruption.

On public hearings. It’s important to note that holding public hearings, or partial public hearings, will be important to build the public’s trust in the NACC, bring new evidence to light and investigate corruption effectively.’

Our research finds that the proposed NACC legislation as it stands presents the most restrictive test, repeat most restrictive test, for public hearings in the country – bar South Australia, which has no public hearings.

The requirement that public hearings may only be held where the Commissioner is satisfied that exceptional circumstances exist, is not an accurate or useful threshold for this purpose.

It poses dangers for the effective operation of the Commission – whether through tactical litigation or inaccurate political expectations or both.

Transparency International Australia’s solution is to clarify the wording around public hearings, and to empower the Inspector of the NACC to ensure the Commission uses public hearing powers appropriately.

  1. We need greater clarity that evidence must be given in private if a public hearing might prejudice a person’s safety or actual, planned or likely criminal proceedings.
  2. Empower the Inspector of the NACC to independently verify that the Commission has appropriate procedures and safeguards to ensure public hearings are only used when appropriate, and to fully investigate any concerns that the procedures and safeguards have not been followed.
  3. If the committee recommends that the term ‘exceptional circumstances’ is retained – you should define that term to mean that on balance, the circumstances are such that it is (a) either necessary or preferable, and (b) appropriate, for evidence to be given in public rather than in private.

The Bill should also do more to ensure the Commission is independent and sustainable: the Commission needs its own independent budget track, and the Commissioner, Deputy Commission and Inspector roles should be appointed by a special majority, for example two-thirds of the parliamentary committee, rather than appointed by the Government.

Our submission also puts forwards recommendations to fill the gap in the proposed NACC legislation on whilsteblower protections. We strongly recommend establishing a Whistleblowing Protection Authority as a stand-alone agency or as an agency that is co-established with an agency such as the NACC  – as proposed by Dr Helen Haines’ Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill.

Furthermore, the Government must take a comprehensive approach to reforming both public and private sector whistleblower protections in order to bring effectiveness, simplicity, consistency and accessibility to these protections.

We also recommend greater protections for public interest journalism and confidentiality of journalists’ sources than what is currently proposed in the NACC Bill.

Finally, we strongly urge the Committee to follow the lead of the UK and US and recommend the Government adopt coordinated, ongoing national anti-corruption plan to prioritise and sustain national efforts.