Mark Dreyfus MP

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750 Days Of No Integrity Caps Off Porter's Year Of No Delivery

01 January 2021

Today marks 750 days since the Prime Minister and Attorney-General promised Australians they would establish a Commonwealth Integrity Commission.

MARK DREYFUS
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS

750 DAYS OF NO INTEGRITY COMMISSION CAPS OFF PORTER’S YEAR OF NON-DELIVERY

Today marks 750 days since the Prime Minister and Attorney-General promised Australians they would establish a Commonwealth Integrity Commission.

That’s 750 days of sleaze, scandal and corruption left unchecked by a Government unwilling to act for fear of what a powerful and independent anti-corruption commission would uncover, and who it might hold accountable.

It’s also 750 days since Mr Morrison and Mr Porter promised to establish a Religious Discrimination Act and appoint a Religious Freedom Commissioner within the Human Rights Commission, and 560 days since Mr Porter said that the Morrison Government would “overhaul the protection of whistleblowers in the public service”.

These failures to deliver anything other than press conferences are further examples of a Prime Minister who is all announcement and no delivery, and an arrogant and under-performing Attorney-General who is not doing his job.

In the 750 days since it was promised, the need for a national anti-corruption commission has only grown stronger with sports rorts, ministers peddling forged documents and the airport land scandal. How can Australians trust the Morrison Government to administer the biggest spending Budget in history?

Instead of delivering on the announcement, all we’ve seen is a draft bill for a weak, secretive and compromised commission that would cover up corruption, not expose it.

If adopted, this commission would be unable to instigate its own independent inquiries other than in very limited circumstances, it would be unable to hold public hearings when a corruption investigation related to politicians or public servants, and it appears to have been designed to that it would be unable to investigate any of the multiple recent scandals of the Morrison Government.

It’s no wonder experts across the nation have slammed the Morrison Government for announcing, but then trying to squirm out of, delivering a strong and independent anti-corruption body.

The Government’s model was described by the Centre for Public Integrity as ‘the weakest watchdog in the country’ and by retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Charles SC as ‘an attempt to protect ministers, politicians and senior public servants from investigations into serious corruption’.

Geoffrey Watson SC, former counsel assisting the NSW ICAC, describes the Porter/Morrison proposal as ‘designed to cover up corruption, not expose it’, while former Victorian Judge David Harper says it is a ‘toothless watchdog that fails to hold politicians to account and risks further eroding confidence in our political and democratic processes’.

Will 2021 be the year Australians finally see their Government deliver a powerful, independent and well-resourced national anti-corruption commission? If the past performance of the Morrison Government is any indication, the answer is a disappointing but resounding 'no'.


FRIDAY, 1 JANUARY 2021