On 19 March 2015 we received a Green’s response to ART’s request for pre-election commitments to transparency accountability and anti-corruption in government.
The substance of this reply is posted below.
Thank you very much for contacting us about these important issues. The Greens NSW have been leading the effort for increased transparency, accountability and ethical standards in government.
We strongly support the issues raised in your correspondence. We are strong supporters of ICAC and I successfully moved a motion in the lower house of parliament to commit the government to securing the funding of ICAC now and into the future.
We will continue to champion the ICAC and support its role in NSW. In the Federal Senate, The Greens have moved to introduce a federal ICAC but it was not supported by neither Labor nor the Coalition. The old parties have failed to deliver a national anti corruption body but The Greens remain committed to this as a major priority.
The Greens NSW believe that political donations have a corrosive effect on our democracy and we have always refused to accept corporate donations. We also refuse donations from trade unions. We have driven donations reform in this state which has significantly improved the situation but acknowledge there is more to be done. Our views on political donations are outlined here in our submission to a recent inquiry on the matter.
I recently announced our anti corruption proposals that I will be moving when parliament resumes.
Our five point package will:
1. Legislate for clear statutory offences for bribery, misconduct and corruption of and by public officials, with 15 year maximum sentences where the offences involve Members of Parliament or senior bureaucrats.
2. Provide for the potential seizure of unexplained wealth accumulated by members of Parliament and/or their close family members, during and in the two years following their parliamentary service.
3. Impose a five year cooling off period before Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and senior bureaucrats can work for companies that operate in the industries they had previously regulated.
4. Deliver lobbying transparency, all lobbying of ministers, parliamentary secretaries, ministerial staff and public servants should be minuted, and those minutes made publicly available online.
5. Impose a ban on political donations from for-profit organisations combined with the immediate online disclosure of all other donations.
For the past two decades Liberal and Labor governments have passed thousands of laws making clear criminal penalties for a range of criminal conduct from drink driving to public violence. However the one area of the law they have failed to address is corruption by politicians or senior bureaucrats. Bizarrely this area of the law is primarily governed by old common law offences that date back to the 13thand 17thcenturies.
The existing anti-corruption laws are complex and unworkable with no set maximum penalties. As a result they are rarely used and corruption often goes unpunished in NSW. The Greens are proposing clear and unambiguous statutory offences for bribery, misconduct and corruption of, and by, public officials to ensure these criminals are caught and brought to account. The laws should be based on the successful UK Bribery Act 2010. To address the seriousness of the matter a 15 year maximum sentences should apply where the offence involves a Member of Parliament or senior bureaucrat.
Members of Parliament are required to pro-actively disclose their assets and business interests under the Constitution (Disclosures by Members) Regulation 1983. However if members breach this obligation they are not subject to any criminal penalty. Even where unexplained wealth is disclosed by MPs on the register there is no provision to allow for the recovery of that unexplained wealth.
Recent NSW events in politics has shown the need for asset recovery legislation directed at the unexplained wealth of MPs and their close family members. It should be modelled on the Criminal Assets Recovery Act 1990 to allow for the recovery of unexplained wealth accrued by an MP, or their close family, during or in the two years after, their term in office.
In NSW, as in politics across Australia, we continue to observe a revolving door that sees MPs retire to become senior executives or board members in the industries they used to regulate. We also see senior bureaucrats and executives move from industry to regulator and back again. The end result is an absence of professional distance, and opportunities for self-advancement, at the expense of the public interest. To end this The Greens are proposing a five year cooling off period before Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and senior bureaucrats can work for companies that operate in the industries they had previously regulated.
This will substantially extend and strengthen the existing 18 month prohibition on former Ministers and Parliamentary secretaries lobbying in relation to an official matter that was dealt with by them in their capacity as a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary.
Citizens have a right to know who is meeting with government Ministers and senior political staff and what was discussed. For that to happen we need lobbying transparency: All lobbying of ministers, parliamentary secretaries, ministerial staff and public servants should be minuted, and those minutes made publicly available online within 7 days of the meeting occurring. This is a significant and essential extension of the existing diary disclosure log that contains no useful details of the matters discussed with senior government officials.
Where money and politics mix, opportunities open up for corruption. For more than two decades The Greens NSW have refused to accept corporate donations. For profit corporations have no interest in politics other than to obtain financial gain.
To further corruption proof NSW, The Greens support a comprehensive ban, at local, State and Federal levels, on political donations from for-profit organisations. In combination with this reform there must be full and public transparency of all other donations. This can most readily be delivered through an online disclosure regime operated by the NSW Electoral Commission.
Voluntary measures to promote the public interest and ethical conduct are worthwhile but we believe we need strong legal measurers to ensure compliance and good conduct.
We are committed to reforming access to government information and have highlighted serveal issues with the current legislation including issues raised here
We are strong supporters of a Bill of Rights for NSW which will assist citizens with reference to the power of government. Our draft Bill is here
I trust I have covered all of the issues in your correspondence. If you would like to clarify and of these issues please feel free to contact my office.
Jamie Parker MP
Member for Balmain
(02) 9660 7586