The Alan Missen Award – THE HON MELISSA PARKE
In the 43rd Parliament, the Hon. Melissa Parke resumed her role as a government backbencher and the positions she had held in the previous Parliament as Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) and as a member of the Joint Standing Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee and the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. From March 2012 to February 2013 she also served on the inaugural Joint Human Rights Committee.
The ACLEI committee played an important government oversight role which included monitoring and reviewing the performance of ACLEI and the Integrity Commissioner, examining trends and changes in law enforcement, and monitoring and reviewing the support of ACLEI by government and the performance of agencies with a law enforcement function.
The Committee’s oversight role was made more difficult by the resistance to change within sections of the Executive branch, supported in official documents which praised the failed “multi-agency model” and denied the need to consider further action to address the growing risks of corruption. There was also resistance among members of the Government and Opposition. Despite that resistance, under Ms Parke’s impartial leadership, the Committee’s unanimous recommendations resulted in ACLEI’s direct oversight jurisdiction being extended from the initial AFP and the ACC to include Customs and later the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, Austrac and Crimtrac. Subsequent criminal investigations of corruption have strongly vindicated the Committee’s recommendations.
The Government deferred consideration of the Committee’s recommendation that it examine the merits of establishing a Commonwealth integrity Commission with anticorruption oversight of all Commonwealth public sector agencies. It did so pending implementation of a number of other measures then under consideration, including a national anti-corruption plan.
The Committee in a later report also recommended integrity testing to strengthen the anti-corruption system. The government accepted the recommendation and enacted the necessary legislation.
Her direct support of transparent and accountable government has also included support within her party and in the Parliament for whistleblower protection and for the development of a code of conduct for members of Parliament.
The Hon. Melissa Parke’s contribution in the 43rd Parliament to debate, deliberations and policy has extended to other areas. Her background as a senior UN Lawyer and her continued interest in, and knowledge of its work and global issues, has resulted in significant contributions by her on issues including nuclear non-proliferation, famine, polio eradication, slavery, heavily indebted poor countries and the Middle East. As a member of the Foreign affairs, Defence and Trade Committee she raised issues of importance including Australia China relations and Australia’s relationship with African countries. She has been the secretary of the Australia-Africa Parliamentary Friendship Group and a member of the Global Organisation for Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC). She also chaired the UN Parliamentary Group, the UNICEF Parliamentary Association and the Australian Branch of Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA).
Her contribution to debate, deliberations and policy within and outside Parliament on significant world and domestic matters, at times challenged the government’s position and its administration of policy. Matters have included the treatment of asylum seekers, the rights of children, minorities and indigenous people, and the issues of people trafficking, gene patents, animal welfare and the death penalty, as well as calling for a requirement for parliamentary approval for Australian troops to be sent overseas to war.
Earlier this year she was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Mental Health, Homelessness and Social Housing and, from 1 July 2013, Minister for International Development.
Throughout the 43rd Parliament, she has continued to demonstrate an outstanding commitment to the public interest and performed her roles in the Parliament with honesty, civility, independence and political courage.