Morrison Government falls short with Commonwealth Integrity Commission

The CPSU says the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government’s belated decision to establish a Commonwealth Integrity Commission does not go far enough in dealing with corruption within the Federal Parliament and Commonwealth Agencies.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the abrupt change of direction this morning, having consistently criticised the concept particularly in response to anti-corruption bodies proposed by the Labor Opposition and by Independent MP Cathy McGowan.

It is unclear when the Coalition’s Integrity Commission could begin operating, with a consultation period on the model to close in early February. 

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has finally stopped ignoring the clear public sentiment around this important issue, having dragged its heels for the best part of a year to get to this point. Our initial assessment of what’s proposed is that it’s heading in the right direction but falls significantly short of what’s been proposed by the Labor Party.”

“Our union has a long history of supporting measures that give our community trust in the public service and our democratic institutions, and we are strongly in favour of the creation of a national integrity body to deal with corruption involving the Federal Government, parliamentarians or the public sector.”

“It’s important for the public to have confidence in this Integrity Commission once it’s up and running but it’s also vital that public sector workers themselves know that this body is structured in a way that ensures procedural fairness and real outcomes. Too often we see one set of rules for politicians and agency heads and a far tougher regime for front-line public sector workers. Our members know that the overwhelming majority of people working in the public sector work with absolute integrity to provide services that are vital to the Australian people.”

“We’ve identified some obvious and major flaws with the Coalition’s proposed Integrity Commission. These flaws give the impression that the Government is trying to be seen to do something rather than actually addressing the public’s growing desire for an anti-corruption body with real teeth.”

“Chief among our concerns is that the public is being almost entirely locked out of this process, with ordinary citizens not allowed to directly contact this proposed commission with complaints, not able to observe its activities in the majority of cases through public hearings and kept ignorant of the findings the commission makes. It’s hard to see how this body can improve confidence in our public institutions when everything is happening behind closed doors.”

“We believe that private hearings will be appropriate in many of the cases this commission is likely to examine, but there must be discretion for public hearings when that is clearly in the public interest. Under the Coalition’s proposal a hearing examining allegations of corruption levelled at a Cabinet Minister must be held in secret.”

“We’re similarly concerned at the lack of retrospectivity in this proposal, and that unethical conduct that falls short of outright criminal conduct will be excluded from its scope. Public sector workers have reported growing instances of nepotism and cronyism that must be addressed. We believe Labor has taken a far more sensible and sophisticated approach on all of these points of concern, including a 10-year retrospectivity period, provision for public hearings and a mechanism for direct referrals.”