Crossbench MPs confirm push for federal anti-corruption commission
Australian politics Crossbench MPs confirm push for federal anti-corruption commission
Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie says a future corruption watchdog could investigate Australiaâs spying on Timor-Leste
Crossbench MPs have warned the government they will use the balance of power in the lower house to push for a federal anti-corruption commission.
On Sunday Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie told ABCâs Insiders that ânobody should be above the lawâ, appearing to agree that an anti-corruption commission could investigate Australiaâs spying on Timor-Leste during oil and gas treaty negotiations in 2004.
The warnings comes as MP Cathy McGowan has given notice of a bill to establish a national integrity commission and attorney general Christian Porter opened the door to discussing âall optionsâ with the crossbench.
The Coalition government has never ruled out a push from Labor to establish an anti-corruption commission, but Porter has given a strong indication the government opposes the idea, saying there is no âpersuasive evidenceâ that current methods of tackling corruption are insufficient.
Independent Kerryn Phelpsâ win in the Wentworth byelection saw the government lose its majority in the lower house.
MP Andrew Wilkie told Insiders on Sunday that in the new hung parliament all six crossbench MPs âunderstand the need for an integrity commission or [independent commission against corruption], or something like thatâ.
Sharkie was asked about the prosecution of Witness K â" the whistleblower who revealed spying by Australia â" and his lawyer Bernard Collaery â" and whether an anti-corruption commission would investigate an issue such as that.
Sharkie replied: âNobody should be above the law, whether it happened back in 2004 or whether it happened this year, whether you are a politician, or whether you are a senior public servant.â
The member for Mayo said the crossbench had been pushing for an anti-corruption commission for âthe best part of a yearâ because the Australian public need to have confidence that politicians âact with integrityâ and are not above the law.
âAnd itâs just astonishing that we would not have [an anti-corruption body] g iven that we have that in every state.â
Wilkie said he was âfirmly of the viewâ bugging Timor LâEsteâs cabinet room was ânot in accordance with Australian lawâ.
Wilkie reiterated crossbench demands to drop the prosecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery, labelling them heroic whistleblowers. He noted that there had been no prosecution arising out of the âsubstantive matterâ of spy agency Asio spying on a confidential joint venture negotiation.
Sharkie said the spying incident was âour Watergate and nobody is talking about itâ.
While the comments keep the heat on the government over the Witness K prosecution, they may inflame political disagreements over the remit of an anti-corruption body.
The government is considering combining existing anti-corruption functions in law enforcement agencies, while Labor and the Coalition have publicly bickered over whether a new body would have jurisdiction to investigate former Liberal min ister Bruce Billson and former Labor senator Sam Dastyari for various controversies.
On Saturday, Porter told Fairfax Media the government âcontinues to carefully consider the best way to further strengthen and improve the national integrity framework and I am open to discussing all policy options with members of the crossbenchâ.
âI would be very pleased to meet with any crossbenchers interested in the issue to discuss their views and the work conducted in this area by the government in considering ways to improve present integrity arrangements,â he reportedly said.
âIt is important that changes in this area improve upon the current system, rather than adding complexity and confusion.â
âThe experience at the state and territory level shows this is the worst area to engage in policy on the run.â
The Greens have had a bill before parliament since 2010 to establish a national integrity commission.
On Thursday Greens MP Adam Band t predicted that Australia could have a new federal anti-corruption watchdog âby Christmasâ, suggesting it was supported by majorities in both houses. Phelps agreed it was âvery achievableâ.Topics
- Australian politics
- Cathy McGowan
- Rebekha Sharkie
- Kerryn Phelps
- Andrew Wilkie
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