On 24 March 2015, the Baird Liberal government responded 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 for providing the Baird Government with the Accountability Round Table’s pre-
election issues.
 
The Baird Government has a proud record of restoring accountability to government in NSW.
Some of the highlights include:
 
–  abolished Part 3A of the Planning Act;
–  introduced tough new laws prohibiting party-political material in government
advertising and ensuring the Auditor-General can independently scrutinise
advertising campaigns;
–  allowed People’s Petitions to be debated in Parliament;
–  delivered greater transparency for the management of NSW coal resources through
the competitive Strategic Release Framework;
–  introduced legislation to cancel mining licences tainted by corruption;
–  implemented tougher rules for lobbying and banning lobbyist success fees,
–  began publishing quarterly ministerial diaries; and
–  passed dual roles legislation to ensure clear separation between state MPs and local
government mayors and councillors.
 
Please find below the Baird Government’s response to the Accountability Round Table’s pre-
election issues.  
 
Effectiveness of the Independent Commission Against Corruption
 
You may be assured that a re-elected Baird Government has no plans to diminish the
powers of the ICAC. In fact our record since coming to Government in 2011 shows that not
only have we strengthened the ICAC’s powers, we have also delivered record funding
providing ICAC with $27.8 million in the 2013/14 budget.
 
The NSW Liberals & Nationals have given ICAC stronger legislative powers to fight
corruption. In 2011 we clarified the powers of the ICAC to assemble comprehensive briefs of
evidence for the Director of Public Prosecutions to commence prosecutions arising from
investigations into corruption.
 
In 2013 we made it easier to take disciplinary action against public officials who have been
found by ICAC to have engaged in corrupt conduct. In 2014 we also implemented a
recommendation from the ICAC that the Ministerial Code of Conduct become applicable
under the ICAC Act, giving the watchdog the power to investigate a minister’s compliance
with the Code.
 
Political funding
 
The Baird Government has introduced tough, new measures to restore trust in the political
process. Recent reforms have included increased penalties for breaching donation laws and
an extended limitation period for prosecuting election funding offences.  
 
Special measures for the 2015 state election are intended to enhance transparency and help
reduce the influence of donations on the election by lowering the current caps on donations
and spending, overhauling the system for determining the amount of public funding that can
be claimed by parties and candidates and requiring an additional one-off disclosure of
political donations received in the lead up to the election.  
On 6 March 2015, the Premier released the Baird Government’s response to the final report
of the Panel of Experts on Political Donations – a key step taken on the path to restoring
trust and cleaning up politics in NSW.
 
The  Government  has  supported  in  principle  further  recommendations  in  the  panel’s  final
report including:  
 
  Improved governance of political parties;
  Tighter expenditure limits for third-party campaigners;  
  Real-time, online disclosure of pre-election donations;
  A comprehensive review of the relevant legislation; and
  Increased roles for the Electoral Commission and Auditor General.
 
The NSW Government has not supported the recommendation that an independent body be
established to approve any changes to public funding, as the parliamentary process already
ensures amendments to election funding laws are subject to proper scrutiny and debate.
 
Ahead  of  final  design  and  implementation,  the  panel’s  report  and  the  NSW  Government
response  will  be  referred  to  the  Joint  Standing  Committee  on  Electoral  Matters  for
consideration in the context of its review of the 2015 election.  This will provide Labor, other
parties and stakeholders with an opportunity to be involved in this critical reform.
 
Open government
 
The NSW Liberals & Nationals have a proud record on providing open government, including
the publishing of ministerial diaries, which is a first in the State’s history.
 
In 2013 the Minister for Finance & Services released the NSW Government’s Open Data
Policy which:
 
–  simplifies and facilitates the release of appropriate data by NSW Government
agencies;  
–  makes explicit our commitment to open data and open government; and  
–  supports the GIPA Act and promotes simple and efficient compliance with the
requirements set out in the Act.
 
The Government’s Open Data Dashboard was launched in April 2014. We also have
promoted the public’s interaction with open data by running the apps4nsw competition.
 
The Baird Government has also provided transparent information in agency areas that had
developed a culture of secrecy. In September 2013 for the first time ever we published
Family & Community Services caseworker data to end this culture of secrecy around
caseworkers which had become ingrained in the previous Labor regime. This data is
updated quarterly and available online at the Caseworker Dashboard.
 
Legal and ethical principles of public office
 
The Baird Government wholeheartedly shares and supports the principle that public office is
a privilege and that the exercise of power as a public office holder should and will always be
made in the public interest.  
 
As you are aware, in 2014 we significantly toughened the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
 
Under our changes, Government Ministers who substantially breach the Code of Conduct
will be open to being found corrupt by ICAC. This makes the Code for Ministers in NSW the
toughest in the nation and implements key recommendations made by the ICAC in 2013.  
 
As well as making the Code of Conduct an ‘applicable Code’ under the ICAC act, the new
rules prohibit Ministers or their staff from pressuring NSW Government agencies into
changing their recommendations.  
 
This was recommended by ICAC following its investigations into the conduct of Ian
Macdonald and Eddie Obeid in Operations Acacia and Jasper.
 
As you may know, all Liberal candidates are subject to a system of checks and balances that
promote accountability and the integrity. For example, all candidates must sign an
agreement on the conduct of political fundraising that is the most detailed and
comprehensive document of its kind in Australia.  
 
As far as broader ethical considerations are concerned, the democratic process provides
voters with the opportunity judge candidates on the basis of their behaviour and their
actions, not their words. We have vowed to clean up politics in NSW, and stand by our
actions in this area.  
 
The Baird Government is happy to be judged on its record in this important area.