There were a number of calls for a “Federal ICAC” or Federal Anti Corruption Commission on Monday August 18th 2014 .  This is an idea that the Accountability Round Table strongly endorses.

The Hon Stephen Charles, former Supreme Court Judge and member of ART,  put the case for a Federal Anti-Corruption Commission on the ABC RN Drive program yesterday evening. His discussion with Waleed Aly can be found here. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/drive/do-we-need-a-federal-icac3f/5679430

Stephen Charles argues that the federal government and its departments wield tremendous power, greater than the power of State governments. This power includes the issuing of multimillion dollar contracts and the allocation of money to favoured projects. The conditions for corruption and for abuse of such power clearly exist federally, as much as in NSW or any other State jurisdiction.

The idea of a Federal Anti-Corruption Commission was also raised on the ABC “QandA” program last night. The program transcript can be found here. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-18/live-truss-wong-and-palmer-join-q-and-a-panel/5679378 .  (See at 10.26 pm onwards)

The question concerned whether Australia should have a Federal ICAC.  Host Tony Jones drew attention to PM Tony Abbott’s comments that the problem in NSW was “Labor banning developer’s donations”. (See Guardian news item here. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/18/icac-tony-abbott-says-problem-was-labor-banning-developer-donations?CMP=soc_567 )

Warren Truss responded

“To have a standing committee of this nature, I think to justify that you would have to be able to establish that there were issues of concern that couldn’t be addressed with the existing arrangements that are in place. There are obviously serious issues in NSW and it’s, I think, a distressing situation and it’s a reflection on the body politic and to some extent on the way our democracy works that there’s been these kinds of clearly moral failures in the NSW system.”

Penny Wong responded that the problem was with corrupt behaviours, not problematic laws. She also listed the present anti corruption bodies acting at the Federal level and argued that more were not needed.

ART position

In a submission earlier this year to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity on their Inquiry into the jurisdiction of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI),  ART made the following recommendations.

Recommendations of the Accountability Round Table

 ART submits that the jurisdiction of ACLEI should be extended to provide a single national anti-corruption and malpractice body with a jurisdiction giving it comprehensive coverage of the whole Commonwealth sector, rather than select fragments of it, including:

  • Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Members of Parliament and their staff,
  • The Commonwealth Public Service,
  • Courts and tribunals,
  • Compliance, regulatory and law enforcement agencies,
  • Statutory corporations, companies in which government

o   has an interest or

o   on which government relies to

  • provide services to the community or
  • meet statutory or international treaty obligations, or

o   which receive direct or indirect assistance from the government or its agencies.

Other consequential action will need to be taken. It will be necessary to rename ACLEI to reflect the broadened jurisdiction. It will also be necessary to review all related matters including:

  • relevant definitions (including the definitions of corruption and malpractice),
  • the adequacy of existing powers, including investigatory powers, and whether additional powers are required, and

o   the adequacy of the educative, research and policy functions.

o   the adequacy of the system for co-ordinating the work of all Commonwealth agencies involved in monitoring and investigating misconduct

o   the resourcing needed to serve the comprehensive jurisdiction.