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THE LIBERAL NATIONALS COALITION PLAN FOR INTEGRITY OF GOVERNMENT
With the exception of Victoria and South Australia, every state in Australia has an independent, broad-based anti-corruption commission. The most recent is that set up in Tasmania (2010) and the oldest are those of Queensland and New South Wales, established over 20 years ago. Over the past ten years many across the political spectrum have called for an independent anti-corruption commission for Victoria. The Liberal Nationals Coalition called for an independent broad-based anti-corruption commission in 2007 and promised to establish such a body in government. The Liberal Nationals Coalition believes that there are many issues concerning possible corruption in Victoria that need investigation and that there has been too little accountability under the Labor Government which, despite all its rhetoric to the contrary in Opposition, now stands accused of being the most secretive and least transparent government in the country. The Liberal Nationals Coalition has studied the Australian independent, broadbased anti-corruption commissions which are considered world’s best practice. The Labor Government is cynically proposing to adopt a Clayton’s anticorruption commission, designed expressly to appear to match the Liberal Nationals Coalition’s plan but without the same scope or teeth to properly scrutinise the public sector, especially ministers, members of Parliament and staff. The Liberal Nationals Coalition believes that Victorians will be better assured that government decision-making will be in the public interest for all Victorians under the Liberal Nationals Coalition plan for a broad-based anticorruption commission, modelled on world’s best practice in other Australian jurisdictions.
Ted Baillieu Leader Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition
Andrew McIntosh Shadow Minister for Integrity of Government
Over 11 years, the Labor Government has failed to ensure the integrity of government decision-making, substituting secrecy and spin for accountability. This was highlighted by the revelation in February 2010 that the Government was planning to hold a sham public consultation to pretend to bow to public concern about the redevelopment of the Windsor Hotel. After years of denying the need for an anti-corruption commission, the Labor Government’s proposal for an anti-corruption commission is widely regarded as so complex, bureaucratic and limited in its scope that it is designed to fail. Far from adopting world’s best practice, the Labor Government has developed an overly complex model which is totally different from all other Australian jurisdictions and has been described by experts as looking like spaghetti. The Labor Government’s model persists with multiple separate agencies, now overlaid by a couple of boards, and with ministers and members of Parliament and staff free from the same level of scrutiny as the rest of the public sector.
UNDER A LIBERAL NATIONALS COALITION GOVERNMENT:
A Liberal Nationals Coalition Government will: Establish an independent broad-based anti-corruption commission (IBAC) for Victoria.
The Liberal Nationals Coalition’s independent broad-based anti-corruption commission to be known as IBAC will be modelled most closely on New South Wales’ Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) which was one of the first of its kind to be established anywhere and has been a world leader for over 20 years. IBAC will be operational on 1 July 2011. IBAC will have jurisdiction over all members of the government, judiciary, local government, parliament and the public service and IBAC will have access to the full range of anti-corruption investigative powers available to other anticorruption commissions around Australia. Give IBAC jurisdiction over police and subsume the functions and resources of the Office of Police Integrity into the IBAC.
IBAC will have responsibility for investigating and preventing corruption among sworn police officers and unsworn police staff. The functions, powers and resources of the Office of Police Integrity will be taken over by IBAC. IBAC will differ from ICAC in this respect by including police within its jurisdiction. Experts agree that the police forces are not corrupt in isolation and that the separation of bodies investigating police and non-police corruption in NSW is due to a particular historical accident. Failed prosecutions, claims of ethical breaches and lack of separation from Victoria Police have seriously damaged the reputation of the Labor Government’s Office of Police Integrity and its functions and resources will be subsumed into IBAC when the latter begins operations. Give IBAC full powers to scrutinise ministers and members of Parliament and their staff, consistent with all other public servants.
The Liberal Nationals Coalition’s IBAC will be a ‘one-stop shop’, fighting corruption across the entire public sector, including: local government; the judiciary; the police; ministers; members of Parliament and their staff; and public servants. The Labor Government’s proposed model is confused, complex, and incoherent. It will result in an unequal system where some parts of the public sector receive less scrutiny than other parts. In contrast the Liberal Nationals Coalition IBAC model will mean all parts of the public sector will be subject to the same rules and investigatory powers. Charge IBAC with responsibility for exposing and preventing corruption.
Public sector corruption is defined as perverting or attempting to pervert the proper, honest and impartial exercise of the official functions of a public official. It can be done by the official acting corruptly or by someone seeking or inducing the official to act corruptly. Corrupt conduct may involve a criminal offence or a disciplinary offence that could lead to dismissal.
Corruption in the public sector means that decisions are not made in the public interest and decisions are made to serve private interests. Under a Liberal Nationals Coalition government Victoria’s IBAC will investigate, expose and prevent corruption, involving or affecting public authorities and public officials as well as educating public officials and members of the public about corruption and its harmful effects on public administration and the community. Often it is the private sector that seeks to corrupt the public sector. IBAC’s investigations will not be limited to the public sector when the corruption is directed to facilitating or protecting the interests of the private sector. The function of IBAC is to investigate any allegation or complaint of corrupt conduct, including any matter referred to it by either House of Parliament. IBAC will also have own motion powers to undertake investigations on its own initiative. IBAC’s role will be to assemble evidence admissible in a prosecution and submit it to the Director of Public Prosecutions. IBAC may also provide evidence to the Attorney-General of another state, any public authority or the Commonwealth. IBAC will work cooperatively with the Auditor-General and the Ombudsman to provide a seamless coverage of the range of integrity issues from probity and maladministration to corruption.
Under the Liberal Nationals Coalition IBAC model: Anyone will be able to report suspected corruption in the public sector to IBAC.
Under a Liberal Nationals Coalition government any person will be able to make a complaint to IBAC about corruption. IBAC will also be empowered to refer matters to other public authorities. IBAC will have the full range of anti-corruption investigative powers.
IBAC will have the powers of a standing royal commission to compel the testimony of witnesses and the presentation of documentary or other evidence. IBAC will be empowered to carry out covert surveillance and controlled operations. It will also have powers, subject to Commonwealth approval, for telephone interception.
IBAC will be headed by a single commissioner.
Under a Liberal Nationals Coalition government IBAC will be headed up by a single commissioner consistent with best practice across Australia’s various independent broad-based anti-corruption commissions. The IBAC commissioner will be appointed for a non-renewable fixed five year term to ensure IBAC’s independence, unlike Labor’s proposed model which will see commissioners rely on the government for future appointments. The IBAC commissioner will be appointed by the Governor and must either be a judge, a former judge or a person qualified to be appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court. A deputy commissioner will assist the commissioner, also for a non-renewable fixed term. IBAC will be empowered to conduct Public Hearings.
Unlike the Labor Government’s proposed integrity model which prohibits public hearings, IBAC will hold public or private hearings or a combination of both as required, consistent with best practice in other states. Anti-corruption experts concur that it is essential for public confidence that an independent broad-based anti-corruption commission have the discretion to hold public hearings. In determining whether it is in the public interest to hold a public inquiry, IBAC must consider the benefit of exposing the matter in order to raise awareness of corrupt conduct, the seriousness of the allegation and the risk of undue prejudice to reputation, to determine whether the public interest is outweighed by private interests in preserving an individual’s privacy. IBAC will be subject to powerful oversight.
The exceptional powers which will be provided to IBAC demand that there be strong oversight as a check on potential abuse. The same type of oversight by parliamentary committees has worked well for 20 years in NSW and Queensland. At present, there is no genuine oversight of the Office of Police Integrity (OPI) by Parliament. Integral to the accountability of IBAC will be oversight by a Parliamentary Joint Committee which will monitor IBAC. The IBAC commissioner will be required to make an annual report to both Houses of Parliament. The IBAC committee will examine these and other IBAC reports. It will take all evidence in public, except where it relates to secret or confidential matters.
An inspector will be appointed by the Governor to audit the operations of IBAC in order to monitor compliance with the law and to deal with complaints of abuse of power or other forms of misconduct through reports and recommendations. The inspector is not subject to IBAC in any way and will investigate the conduct of IBAC and its officers if they are considered contrary to law, unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or improperly discriminatory or based on improper motives. The parliamentary committee also has oversight over the inspector. The committee will have the power to veto the appointment of a commissioner or inspector. It will be empowered to send for persons, papers and records. Codes of Conduct for MPs and Ministers will be implemented.
The Privileges Committee of each House will be required to draft codes of conduct for ministers as well as members of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council and staff (these codes of conduct must be formally adopted by the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council). Unlike the Labor Government’s model, the elected officials of the Parliament will determine the appropriate standard of conduct for the public sector, rather than the Government. Preventing corruption will be a major focus of IBAC.
Like ICAC and the other broad-based independent anti-corruption commissions, IBAC will also have a strong prevention and education function. In order to prevent corruption, IBAC may, along with reporting matters to particular Government agencies, make recommendations as to specific ways of combating and preventing corruption in the future. Where appropriate, IBAC may refer misconduct to the relevant authority for the purposes of disciplinary hearings. IBAC will also have an important prevention role providing education to public officials about the principles of good governance. A Liberal Nationals Coalition Government and IBAC will restore honest and transparent government in Victoria.
An anti-corruption commission, by its very nature, is a force for prevention of as well as for the identification of existing misconduct and corruption in the public sector. Corruption hides behind institutional secrecy and there is no government in Australia so secretive as the current Victorian Labor Government. Lack of integrity in government weakens democracy and gives people no confidence that they will get a fair go. When the integrity and honesty of government suffers, we all pay for decisions that benefit only the few causing government services to suffer. Decision-making needs to be transparent so that Victorians can be assured that the Government is spending their money wisely and well. For the first time in over ten years, Victorians will be guaranteed that honesty will be a keystone in public policy and a Liberal Nationals Coalition Government will govern for all Victorians.
To protect Victoria’s other integrity bodies a Liberal Nationals Coalition Government will: Establish a joint standing committee of the Parliament dedicated to the Ombudsman, the Privacy Commissioner, the Commissioner for Law Enforcement Data Security and the Liberal Nationals Coalition’s proposed FOI Commissioner. Ensure that the Auditor-General has the right to report to Public Accounts and Estimates Committee at any time of its choosing.
Labor has threatened the integrity of Victoria’s key integrity bodies. It increased public attacks against them and moved to limit their scrutiny of government. Earlier this year Labor proposed amendments to Victoria’s public finance legislation, aimed at imposing rules that would have allowed ministers to direct and curtail investigations by the Ombudsman and the Auditor-General. Had these amendments been allowed to pass, Victoria’s critical integrity bodies could have been subject to direct influence by the Government. The Legislative Council referred Labor’s proposed amendments to the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) to consider and report on them.
But instead of examining Labor’s Bill, taking evidence from all relevant parties and assessing whether it complied with PAEC’s own 2009 report New Directions In Accountability, Labor’s PAEC members initially held a rushed 13day inquiry and refused to take evidence from the Auditor-General and other key parties. Labor used its majority on the PAEC committee to deny the Auditor-General a public voice to air his legitimate concerns about Labor’s proposed legislation, and only allowed the Auditor-General to give evidence after being ordered to do so by the Legislative Council. In recent years allegations of improper motives, procedures and conduct have been levelled against the Ombudsman and the Auditor General following adverse findings against a number of people and institutions. Following the Ombudsman’s recent inquiry into allegations of corruption at Brimbank City Council, for example, the targets of that investigation accused the Ombudsman of improper conduct. A senior Member of the Commonwealth Government aligned to some of those identified in the Ombudsman’s report publicly condemned the Ombudsman under privilege in the Senate. In both instances Victoria’s Integrity bodies were left exposed without a formal means of communicating their concerns or their response to allegations of impropriety. The Auditor General has no right to be heard by the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee to which it reports and the Ombudsman has no committee of the Parliament to which it can appeal directly. Neither the Privacy Commissioner nor the Commissioner for Law Enforcement Data Security has direct access to a parliamentary committee. The only formal public voice available to these agencies is through formal reporting to Parliament. The Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition will give Victoria’s key integrity bodies a voice. The Liberal Nationals Coalition in Government will establish a Joint Standing Parliamentary Committee on Government Integrity to provide oversight of these agencies and guarantee them a permanent voice in Parliament.
Legislation establishing this committee will require that any of the integrity bodies oversighted by the committee will be able to appear before it at any time to raise concerns on matters relating to their work. The Liberal Nationals Coalition will also ensure that the Auditor-General has the right to appear before the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee at its own request, and express any concerns about government conduct. The Joint Standing Committee on Government Integrity will consist of representatives from all parties and from both houses of Parliament, similar to the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee. Under the Liberal Nationals Coalition’s model, Victoria’s key integrity bodies will have a guaranteed right to appear before a committee of Parliament and be heard.
Recurrent Funding 2011/12 IBAC Total $30m $30m 2012/13 $40m $40m 2013/14 $44m $44m 2014/15 $46m $46m Total $160m $160m
Establish IBAC Office
Authorised by Tony Nutt, 104 Exhibition St, Melbourne VIC 3000.
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