How are the major parties proposing to enhance Parliamentary integrity and accountability?

We have Election 2010 responses from Greens, Coalition and Labor. Read on…

Our question 1

Do you support a comprehensive independent integrity system for the Commonwealth incorporating a general purpose Commonwealth anti-corruption agency, which includes educative, research and policy functions and which is provided with all necessary powers and is subject to parliamentary oversight?

Our question 2

Do you support an enquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission into regulation of the funding of political parties and candidates to achieve equality of access and integrity in our democratic system?

PARTIES & CANDIDATES  COMMITMENTS


1 Greens, 14 Aug 2010

Q1. Independent integrity system
The Greens introduced legislation a national independent integrity and anti-corruption commission into the Senate to establish the Commission in June 2010.
The National Integrity Commissioner Bill establishes a National Office of Integrity Commissioner, which will comprise of a new National Integrity Commission, the existing the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) and a new Office of the Parliamentary Advisor. It will have independent oversight functions for: the investigation and prevention of misconduct and corruption in all Commonwealth departments, agencies, federal parliamentarians and their staff; the Australian Federal Police and The Australian Crimes Commission and will provide written advice to parliamentarians on matters relating to ethical conduct of parliamentarians, interpretation of the departmental guidelines. Senator Brown introduced this bill in June 2010 http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22legislation%2Fbillhome%2Fs752%22

Q2. Inquiry into political funding
The Greens have outlined their concerns about the deleterious impact of corporate donations on Australia’s political processes in our responses to the Government Green Papers and in the recent Senate debates on electoral reform.
The Greens believe that undue influence and problems of corruption arise from unchecked private funding of election campaigns. A rigorous regime for disclosure of electoral funding is essential to ensure accountability and transparency in the system. The current system allows for substantial areas of funding to avoid proper scrutiny through the disclosure requirements of the Electoral Act.
The Greens support amendments to the Act to require all the component activities of private funding, including donations, fundraising activities, membership fees, investments and debt is properly disclosed.
Additionally, the Greens propose that the time frame of the current disclosure regime does not enhance transparency or accountability. Lodgement of returns at the end of the financial year which are then made public on the first working day of February in the following calendar year, results in a public disconnection between the cause and effect of the spending. A system which required continuous disclosure would better address the goals of transparency and accountability. Online disclosure could make this requirement straightforward.

The Greens propose::

  • That individual donations will be capped at $1,000.
  • That there is a ban on all political donations by corporations
  • That full disclosure requirements are applied to all sources of private funding.
  • That mechanisms for continuous disclosure of electoral funding be investigated.

2 Coalition, 17 August 2010

Thank you for providing the opportunity to outline the views of the Coalition on the important issues facing your members. On behalf of the Coalition Members of Parliament and candidates I am pleased to respond to your survey.
The Coalition commends your organisation’s keenness and dedication to safeguarding and promoting good public governance in Australia.

The Coalition is always open to new and effective measures that will ensure Australia remains one of the world’s most principled and impartially administered jurisdictions.

The Coalition understands that state independent commissions against corruption have added value in those jurisdictions.

In government, the Coalition will consider the merits of asking the Law Reform Commission to investigate the process of public funding of political parties and candidates, and the regulations that pertain to the electoral process.
The coalition will always aim to govern with the utmost integrity. We are not the party of powerful vested interests; we are the party of ordinary individuals and families who want the highest standards from their government.
More generally, the Coalition believes Labor has made the future of all Australians more uncertain.

On top of their billion dollar waste on school buildings, their mismanaged home insulation fiasco and their soft border protection policies, Labor is growing Australia’s debt by 100 million per day.

They even removed an elected Prime minister to suit their own political interest.
The Coalition is taking a stand in the best interests of Australia’s future.  We will end the waste, repay the debt, stiop the taxes, stop the boats and ease the pressure on Australian families.

Throughout the election campaign we will be progressively announcing policies outlining our commitments for Australia’s future. These policies will cover a number of issues canvassed in your survey.
Onve announced, our policies will be available at www.liberal.org.au and www.nationals.org.au .
Thank you for helping us to communicate the Coalition’s commitments to your members.

Yours sincerely,

Brian Loughnane

Federal Campaign Director


3 Labor, 17 August 2010

Thank you for your letter of 3 August 2010 on behalf of the Accountability Round Table.
Federal Labor is committed to promoting a pro-disclosure culture across government and to building a stronger foundation for more openness and accountability in government. This commitment has been demonstrated through the actions undertaken during the past term of government.

In the field of freedom of information, Federal Labor abolished the power to issue conclusive certificates to prevent the release of documents, something which had been abused by the previous Howard Liberal Government. We have also made the most substantial changes to Australia’s Freedom of Information Act since its enactment in 1982, reforms which will establish a pro-disclosure culture across government and ushering in a fundamental and irreversible shift in the way government information is handled in this country. If re-elected, the Gillard Labor Government will ensure these reforms are successfully implemented and built upon.

Federal Labor has implemented a number of accountability mechanisms within the executive arm of government, including releasing the Standards of Ministerial Ethics after the first Cabinet meeting of the new Labor Government on 6 December 2007. We have has also introduced a code of conduct applying to its own ministerial staff.
In the area of lobbyists within a year of coming to office, Federal Labor established a Lobbying Code of Conduct and set up a public Lobbyists Register. This register is essential in enabling Ministers and their staff to know who is engaged in lobbying and whose interests are being promoted. Importantly, the Lobbying Code of Conduct also includes a prohibition on lobbying activities for former ministers and parliamentary secretaries, former ministerial staff and former members of the public service and defence force for a set periods after leaving office.

In its first term, Federal Labor has also taken significant steps towards the introduction of the first stand-alone whistleblower protection scheme at Commonwealth level. We referred the question of what form this scheme should take to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which made its report in February 2009. We then announced in March 2010 that it accepted the majority of this Committee’s recommendations, and that it would introduce a Public Interest Disclosure Bill to implement this scheme. Federal Labor has been developing this legislation and, if re-elected, intends to release an Exposure Draft of this Bill for public consultation, before introducing it into the Parliament. Federal Labor has clearly demonstrated that is supports public sector whistleblower protection, which stands in marked contrast to years of inaction under the former Coalition Government.

Parliamentary entitlements are heavily scrutinised by the public and rightly so. Federal Labor has demonstrated its commitment to reform of the parliamentary entitlements framework. The Government is working to bring politicians’ pay and entitlements into line with community standards to ensure simple administration, transparent use and value for money. In government Federal Labor has:

  • Slashed the printing allowance for MPs by half from $150,000 per annum to $75,000. This contrasts with the Coalition, who lifted the expenditure from $125,000 to $150,000.
  • Slashed the printing allowance for Senators down from $20,000 per annum to $12,500 per annum.
  • Placed caps on the amount of office consumables that MPs and Senators can order, to curb excessive expenditure;
  • Published MPs’ and Senators’ travel costs online, for the first time – so you can see and know what your local politicians spend;
  • In June 2010 for the first time other expenditure costs including office administration, printing and communications and family travel costs were tabled in the Parliament and online;.
  • Established a rigorous vetting and checking system within the Department of Finance to ensure the material Members and Senators print is within entitlement.
  • Cut the number of ministerial staff by 20%.
  • Published for the first time annual reports on staff employed under the Members of Parliament Staff Act 1984 including numbers and remuneration, opening up this area to public scrutiny for the very first time;
  • Successfully made representations to the Remuneration Tribunal to abolish the Telecard entitlement made infamous by former Liberal Minister Peter Reith; and
  • Established the independent Belcher committee of review to investigate options for further reform in this area.
  • These and a range of other reforms demonstrate that Federal Labor is committed to delivering increased accountability, integrity and transparency in the Federal Government.

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