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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised to set up a National Integrity Commission before the latest election, but insists it will not have the same strength as the Independent Anti-Corruption Commission of New South Wales, a view shared by ministers and MPs.
Mr Morrison said on Tuesday there was a “real problem” with the ICAC form after the state commission announced an investigation into Gladys Berejiklian last Friday, prompting her to announce her resignation as New South Wales Premier on that day.
“You have to have processes that assume people are innocent before they can be thought guilty and that’s a real problem. So it’s not a model that we’ve thought of at the federal level.”
“And I’m sure there are millions of people who have seen what happened to Glydis Berejiklian, and they will understand that this is a very good call not to follow that model.”
The features of the NSW ICAC prohibited in the federal plan include the ability to consider any behavior affecting impartial decisions, initiate investigations without evidence of corruption, initiate their own investigations and act on anonymous advice.
Victoria’s broad independent anti-corruption commission has also been barred from acting on anonymous guidelines, but it can start its own investigation.
Unlike the federal proposal, the NSW and Victoria commissions could hold public hearings, present findings of facts and make public statements without waiting for the court to decide on a criminal charge of corruption.
The opposition’s legal spokesman, Mark Dreyfus, said the Labor government would set up a commission with strong powers to examine “serious and systemic corruption” with scope to look into past behaviour.
While the government has yet to reveal its final plan, Section 17 of the bill allows the committee to look into past conduct as long as the said offense was in law at the time the conduct occurred.
The government has argued for more than a year that future changes to the criminal code should not apply to past conduct.
The Center for Public Integrity said that the powers of the new committee would be too weak to achieve $100 million Theme “sport rorts” Or $660 million Passenger parking schemeTwo examples of ministers being accused of using taxpayer money for political gain in recent elections.
It also concluded that the federal body would not have room to investigate allegations in 2019 that Crown Casino was able to expedite visas for large gambling clients visiting Australia, because the behavior of third parties outside the government would not be covered.
She also said the federal agency would not be able to examine potential violations of the ministerial code of conduct, such as allegations in recent years that former cabinet ministers Julie Bishop and Christopher Pine conducted lobbying work that violated the rules. Both were acquitted of these allegations in July 2019 following a review by Martin Parkinson, head of the Prime Minister’s Department and Cabinet.
The Center for Public Integrity includes former President of the Queensland Court of Appeal Tony Fitzgerald, University of Melbourne Professor Jo Chung Tham and former counsel assisting the NSW Independent Anti-Corruption Commission Jeffrey Watson, as well as Mr Charles and Mr Wylie.
One of the weaknesses of the new federal commission, according to the new analysis, is that it will be limited to investigating criminal offenses, except for matters that involve conflicts of interest or violations of ministerial law but fall short of criminal behaviour.
The Center for Public Integrity also found that the threshold of evidence would be too high to initiate investigations, for example by asking for “reasonable grounds to suspect” the commission of a crime.
One of the main arguments in the new assessment is that not all corruption is a criminal offense and that the new commission will need to be able to consider a broader range of behaviour.
In line with its statements in the past, the Center for Public Integrity said it was a mistake that the new body would not be able to hold public hearings and not be expected to issue public reports, meaning the public would only know about the case if it was. He was successfully tried in court.
“It would be ineffective in investigating or exposing corruption in government and the public sector, and would require urgent amendment if fit for purpose,” the report said.
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