Thursday, 13 December 2018

Commonwealth Government to establish new integrity commission

Media release

The Hon Scott Morrison MP
Prime Minister

The Hon Christian Porter MP
Attorney-General

A new Commonwealth Integrity Commission will take the lead on detecting and stamping out any corrupt and criminal behaviour by Commonwealth employees.

The new CIC will be the lead body in Australia's successful multi-agency anti-corruption framework.

Our government is committed to ensuring that Australians remain confident their representatives and Commonwealth employees are acting in their best interests.

This is a serious new Commission with teeth, resources and proper processes that will protect the integrity of Australia's Commonwealth public administration, while avoiding the pitfalls, weaknesses and abuses of systems introduced by state jurisdictions and being proposed in alternative models.

We began carefully considering options for a national anti-corruption body in January this year, and we have taken the time to ensure this model fits into the existing system but avoids the worst aspects of some state anti-corruption bodies.

We have been determined to get this right, rather than ride a political bandwagon.

 The CIC will be a well-resourced, centralised and specialist centre that will investigate criminal corruption across the Commonwealth. It will be an independent statutory agency led by a commissioner and two deputy commissioners, with public sector and law enforcement integrity divisions.

The public sector integrity division will cover departments, agencies and their staff, parliamentarians and their staff, staff of federal judicial officers and subject to consultation judicial officers themselves, as well as contractors.

The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) will be reconstituted as the law enforcement integrity division, with a significantly expanded jurisdiction to also include the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), and the whole of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR).

Both divisions will investigate allegations of criminal corruption. We will amend the Criminal Code Act 1995 to add new corruption offences to ensure the most serious and systemic incidents of corruption are clearly understood and can be punished.

The overwhelming majority of people working for the Commonwealth do the right thing, and they do their work for the right reasons. The CIC will help ensure that this remains the case.

Our government will avoid the serious failings of state-based integrity bodies that on too many occasions have proved to be 'kangaroo courts' falling victim to poor process and being little more than a forum for self-serving mud slinging and the pursuit of personal, corporate and political vendettas. We have learned from their mistakes in bringing our proposed new Commission together.

While the CIC will have the power to conduct public hearings only through its law enforcement division, the public sector integrity division will not have the power to make public findings of corruption. Instead, it will be tasked with investigating and referring potential criminal conduct to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. This approach ensures that it is the courts that make findings of criminally corrupt conduct.

It is disappointing Labor has sought to undermine Australians' confidence in the public service in recent months, announcing a proposal for an integrity commission yet providing no detail of how it would work, how it would be structured, or how it would operate within the existing multi-agency framework.

Our approach is designed to give Australians confidence appropriate mechanisms are in place to detect and prosecute corrupt or criminal behaviour by all commonwealth employees.

Further details on the CIC model are available in a paper on the Attorney-General's Department page.

We will undertake extensive public consultation on the proposed model, led by a panel of technical experts. The outcomes of that consultation process will feed into the final design and our government will then legislate to implement that design.