New evidence of corruption shows need for a Federal ICAC
Last week it was reported that in the last three years the number of federal public servants who have witnessing corruption in the workplace has doubled. When will Malcolm Turnbull wake up to the need to establish a national anti-corruption watchdog?
Last year, despite endless political scandals, the old parties still teamed up to block a motion from the Greens for an anti-corruption watchdog. What do they have to hide?
The clear majority of our public service sector do important work and conduct themselves with the utmost integrity. Yet more accounts of corruption demonstrate that we desperately need to establish an independent anti-corruption watchdog
Let’s look at the details. A survey of the bureaucracy revealed 5 per cent of respondents said they had seen misconduct, with cronyism and nepotism the most common charge.
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has admitted there is some corruption in the bureaucracy, but stressed it remained rare and staff were vigilant to the threat.
However, former New South Wales Supreme Court Judge Anthony Whealy said corruption could be more widespread than many realised. “We know that in the public service whistleblowing is absolutely frowned on,” Mr Whealy told the ABC.
“People who work in the public service, in many instances, would be afraid to report their superiors or even their equals who are involved in corruption.”
For the first time, the APSC has asked whether staff believed they worked in a high corruption risk environment. Most respondents in 59 agencies agreed this was the case.
Mr Whealy, who is also the president of Transparency International, said it showed the need for an independent watchdog.
“I think there is a significant chance that these figures are very conservative and the level of inappropriate behaviour amounting in some cases to corruption would be considerably higher than these figures demonstrate,” he said.
Leading administrative law barrister Mark Robinson SC said he had no doubt there was corruption at all levels of government.
“Whenever there is discretionary statutory power exercised that is not openly accountable to external and independent scrutiny, corruption can and will flourish,” he said.
Public servants are subject to Senate estimates hearings and independent audits, but proponents of a federal commission said more oversight was required.
Last month Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull did open the door to a national anti-corruption body, albeit only slightly. Now he should engage with the National Integrity Committee (NIC) set up last month to advise policy makers on the best model.
Commenting on the Prime Minister’s very small policy shift the Greens democracy spokesperson, Senator Lee Rhiannon said, “The Prime Minister will undermine his own announcement that he is considering a national anti-corruption body if he continues to advocate for a model similar to the Victorian IBAC.
“The IBAC itself has acknowledged that it is unable to investigate serious allegations because it lacks legislative teeth”.
With polling consistently showing that about 80 per cent of Australians recognise that there is corruption at a federal level the Prime Minister would be in dangerous territory if he thought he could get away with setting up a weak and restricted oversight body.
“I strongly urge the Prime Minister to follow the advice of the National Integrity Committee. This body can help remove the roadblocks that to date have stopped the formation of a federal corruption watchdog” Senator Rhiannon added.
The federal government should heed this new evidence and move immediately to establish a full federal ICAC.