Today the bill for a National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) passed the Parliament, with cross-Parliamentary input and support.
#OurDemocracy joins with the Australian people to celebrate this important moment – over 80% of Australians support a Federal integrity commission with strong powers, and the 2022 integrity election has ensured this will become a reality. The NACC is a critical first step to fulfilling the Framework for a Fair Democracy.
While spokespeople for the Australian Democracy Network, Transparency International Australia and Human Rights Law Centre acknowledges the legislation is not without its weaknesses, this is still a strong bill and, they say, a mark of the progress that Parliament can make when they listen to voters.
Saffron Zomer, Executive Director of Australian Democracy Network, said, “I have to congratulate the Australian people for sending a strong message to Parliament. You have created conditions where our leaders must improve integrity and accountability in government or lose your trust and your vote.”
“Now we need to take the important next steps to ensure our democracy works in the interests of people and the planet – we have to reform political donations and election spending, shine a light on lobbying, and bring an end to the lies and corporate campaigns that endanger our elections to advance narrow vested interests.”
“Credit must be given to the member for Indi, Dr Helen Haines, and her predecessor Cathy McGowan, who have tirelessly consulted on and campaigned for a Federal Integrity Commission with teeth. While this NACC is missing a couple of teeth, Attorney General Mark Dreyfus has indicated he is working on fillings to strengthen whistleblower protection legislation, which we
hope to see soon,” said Saffron Zomer.
Unfortunately, the amendment to remove “exceptional circumstances” from the legislation was not successful.
Clancy Moore from Transparency International said: “Unfortunately, the government chose to keep the exceptional circumstances test which sets a high bar for public hearings. Important information into corruption could be kept hidden from the public and could stop more information coming to light. Our research shows that this is the most restrictive test for public hearings in the country – except South Australia, which has no public hearings.”
“Independence was a key design principle for the commission. So it’s disappointing to see our proposal for a two-thirds majority of the parliamentary oversight committee needed to approve the appointments to the commission get rejected. Time will tell whether the oversight committee will be free from political interference as it only needs a majority of one to approve appointments
which favours the government of the day.”
“Transparency International Australia acknowledges the government, cross-bench and opposition MPs, and public servants for their hard work in delivering this important public policy reform.”
Alice Drury, Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, said “This is a big moment for achieving political integrity in politics — one that countless people have been working toward for many years. While noting the weaknesses in the model, especially regarding public hearings, we should acknowledge the importance of what has been achieved. “But there’s a lot more work to do. We have the watchdog to enforce anti-corruption laws, but the laws themselves remain weak. If the NACC is to do its job properly, we need stronger regulation of political donations, election spending and lobbying as a matter of urgency.”