National Integrity Commission

House of Reps, Canberra.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
 
MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE – NATIONAL INTEGRITY COMMISSION
 
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA
 
WEDNESDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2018
 
*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***
 

I always welcome the opportunity to talk about Labor's call for a National Integrity Commission but particularly, right now. This is because in the last week, if we ever needed it, the evidence supporting a federal anti-corruption body has grown stronger.
 
I'm glad to be speaking on this topic today with members of the crossbench, which shows the depth of support that this proposal has within this Parliament.
 
This week we've seen the allegations against the Minister for Home Affairs, which have not been denied, that he used the power of his office to help others gain employment with the Australian Border Force. I quote from The Sydney Morning Herald front page yesterday:
 
“Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton pressed then Customs chief Roman Quaedvlieg to help two Queensland policemen get jobs in the new Border Force agency Mr Dutton was setting up – a revelation set to escalate the political furore surrounding Mr Dutton’s decisions as immigration minister. One of the two policemen, Matt Stock, is a good friend of Mr Dutton’s, according to sources with knowledge of the events. The second man, John Lewis, is the son of corrupt former police commissioner Terry Lewis.”
 
The Minister for Home Affairs has not denied the substance of these allegations, merely stating that he does not believe he has done anything improper.
 
These are serious allegations which cannot go unanswered. If the Minister for Home Affairs thinks he can just brush them off and move on, he is sorely mistaken. We are talking here about a minister who created a new agency, Border Force, and then helped two people from his old workplace get jobs in that agency. There are serious questions to answer, and the Minister for Home Affairs has not gone anywhere near to answering them.
 
As strong as this recent case is, the need for a National Integrity Commission was already there.
 
In recent years there has been a loss of public faith in our Commonwealth institutions. Australia currently ranks 13th out of 176 countries on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. That doesn't sound so bad, but we were sixth on that list just six years ago.
 
In January 2018 a survey of federal public servants by the Australian Public Service Commission revealed that five per cent of respondents had seen misconduct in their workplaces, with cronyism and nepotism the most common charges. With scandal after scandal unfolding over recent years, many involving ministers of the Abbott and Turnbull governments, Labor believes it's time to do what we can to restore the public's faith and trust in their government.
 
Every state and territory either has already established or is in the process of establishing an anti-corruption body. It's time we held Commonwealth public officials to the same standard and created a single broad-based body to prevent corruption.
 
It's extremely disappointing to hear the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia continue to resist the establishment of a National Integrity Commission. I suppose it's what we should expect from the government that voted 26 times against the establishment of a Royal Commission into the banks, but it is disappointing to hear the specious reasons given by the Attorney-General for not backing the establishment of a national integrity commission.
 
The Attorney-General said that the proposal Labor has put forward—and, I can reassure the member for Denison, remains absolutely committed to and will take to the next election—is a vague one, but the fact of the matter is that the proposal we have committed to contains seven detailed design principles.
 
Rightly, in addition to those principles, we have said that the fine grain of the design of a National Integrity Commission of necessity has to be left to government, because the Commonwealth already has some focused anti-corruption bodies, and any National Integrity Commission needs to mesh with those bodies, but the seven detailed design principles were put out there so that we wouldn't get the somewhat nonsensical answer from the Attorney-General that we hadn't given enough detail.
 
I invite the Attorney-General and the government to re-examine the proposal and the seven detailed design principles Labor has put forward and, having re-examined, change their position and come together with Labor to establish a National Integrity Commission, because if ever there were ever an area in which by partisanship is vital, it's this area.