Mansfield Courier

Parliament­ary watchdog remains in kennel

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THE Federal Government’s response to the resignatio­n of former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklia­n has shown it does not believe in a robust watchdog for parliament­arians, Independen­t Indi MP Helen Haines claimed this week.

Dr Haines has criticised the continuing non-committal stance on an integrity commission after they promised to establish one almost three years ago.

“Assistant Attorney General Amanda Stoker, who is responsibl­e for the government’s toothless proposal for an integrity commission, would only say on Tuesday she ‘hoped’ the government would introduce legislatio­n to Parliament by the end of the year,” Dr Haines said.

“Senator Stoker also tried to characteri­se integrity commission­s as ineffectiv­e and wouldn’t commit to a model that had retrospect­ive powers to investigat­e past behaviour at the federal level.”

On Tuesday Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “it’s certainly not a model that we ever consider at a federal level” about the NSW Independen­t Commission Against Corruption.

“For the prime minister to wholesale eliminate any particular model of an integrity commission is a distractio­n,” Dr Haines said.

“The government is creating a false dichotomy between the NSW model or nothing at all - that’s simply not the case.

“We have a glaring gap in the federal parliament where there is no way to investigat­e rorts, potential corruption and wrongdoing - we must fix that.”

In 2020 Dr Haines introduced a Bill for the Australian Federal Integrity Commission to Parliament, a model developed with eminent retired judges, as well as other leading experts and academics.

“The Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill uses the lessons learned from all the models of integrity commission in every state and territory across Australia,” Dr Haines said.

“It allows for both public and private hearings, and it has strong safeguards to make sure the commission only goes public with its investigat­ions and hearings when it is absolutely in the public interest.

“All the government wants to do is have blanket private hearings for politician­s, their staff and more than 80 per cent of public servants that’s nowhere near the right balance.

“The government is trying to use what happened in NSW to scare Australian­s into believing secrecy is the only way forward.

“It’s unacceptab­le.”

It was reported on Tuesday that government MPs were “wary” of an integrity commission being introduced at a federal level.

“Right now the government will do anything they can to delay or avoid having an integrity commission at a federal level,” Dr Haines said.

“But the Australian public deserves much more than that.

“We can design an integrity commission that has all

the necessary safeguards, that makes sure that a person’s reputation is not unfairly trashed, but that we get sound good governance of the spending of taxpayers money.

“It is not something MPs should be wary of, it’s something MPs should welcome.”

Dr Haines said her Bill for the Australian Federal Integrity Commission could be debated, amended and passed on the next sitting day, ending the delays and politicisa­tion of an integrity commission between the major parties.

“We can’t go to another election talking about this, with no proper watchdog on the beat,” she said.

“My Bill is ready and must be debated without delay.

“The only way this will get done properly is if it comes from a safe pair of hands on the crossbench.

“The government promised an integrity commission almost three years ago and since then have moved at a snail’s pace on a model that would not make any dent in standards of accountabi­lity and transparen­cy.

“The overwhelmi­ng majority of Australian­s want an integrity commission and passing my Bill would fulfil that demand of the Australian public.”

 ?? ?? HOLD THEM TO ACCOUNT: Helen Haines says she continues to push for accountabi­lity and transparen­cy in government.
HOLD THEM TO ACCOUNT: Helen Haines says she continues to push for accountabi­lity and transparen­cy in government.

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