Phew. Last week, federal Labor introduced legislation into parliament that would hopefully stiffen the spines across the Commonwealth public sector.
Those who could be examined by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) include ministers, parliamentarians and their staff, statutory officer holders, employees of all government entities and government contractors.
Once adopted, a rainbow of fulsome governance will then ensue, because as everyone except Scott Morrison knows, public trust and the functioning of society is dependant on sunlight beaming down in-between every crevice.
Liberal opposition leader, Peter Dutton believes public hearings could cause reputational damage and become ‘show trails’.
Oh, cry me a river, Potato Head.
It’s what Rupert Murdoch and his orcs believe too, of course.
If anything, a Federal ICAC needs to be radically transparent, with televised events of all hearings, on primetime TV. And available everywhere on the internet and newspapers.
A massive advertising budget could also help the plebs understand how important it is to be in charge of billions of our dollars. Spend it wisely please, and not on yourself.
Anyway, NACC proposal is said to have broad powers, will be independent, and retrospective.
It promises procedural fairness and oversight, and it is funded at $232m over four years.
According to Labor, the legislation also provides strong protections for whistle-blowers, and exemptions for journalists to protect the identity of sources.
So far with this Bill, there’s a lot of good will being swilled around by academics and the legal profession.
Yet there’s one main sticking point: it will follow the NSW ICAC model but only hold public hearings in ‘exceptional circumstances and where it is in the public interest to do so’ (the PM’s words).
And according to independent media, www.michaelwest.com.au, ‘findings of secret hearings [will not] be made public, with Labor charging the commission to only “refer findings that could constitute criminal conduct to the Australian Federal Police or the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions”.’
The Echo asked local Labor MP, Justine Elliot if that statement was correct. The Echo also asked Ms Elliot, ‘Given Labor doesn’t need the support of the coalition to pass this law, why is Labor following their position on limited transparency?’.
Ms Elliot replied in part, ‘The Commonwealth is the last Australian jurisdiction to establish an anti-corruption commission, and this has allowed us to select the best design features from across the State and Territory commissions’.
She said, ‘The Commission will have the power to hold public hearings in exceptional circumstances and where it is in the public interest to do so. This threshold strikes the right balance to ensure that the benefits of holding public hearings are balanced against potential negative impacts’.
So just to summarise – according to Labor, their ‘threshold’ is making sure hearings and the findings will mostly be held in secret.
Because if the hearings and the findings were made public, Labor argues, parliament may end up being a big empty building.
Now that’s striking the right balance.
Hans Lovejoy, editor