Corruption watchdog restores trust: Labor


A federal corruption watchdog is closer to becoming a reality after Labor threw its support behind establishing one to restore public faith in politics.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is open to the idea but appears set to face stiff opposition including from his deputy should he bring any proposal to cabinet.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Tuesday announced a Labor government would set up a national integrity commission within a year of winning office.

“The most corrosive sentiment awash in western democracies around the world is the idea that politicians are only in it for themselves,” he told the National Press Club in Canberra.

“That’s simply not true. But so long as the political news is dominated by the minority who do the wrong thing – the travel rorts and dodgy donors and sinecures where cabinet ministers walk straight into cushy jobs in the same sector – then we’re going to have a hard time convincing the n people that we’re serving their interests and not ours.”

The commission would investigate serious and systemic corruption by federal MPs, their staff, public servants, statutory office holders, Commonwealth judges and the governor-general.

It would have to be independent, well-resourced, secure from government interference and effectively run as a standing royal commission, Mr Shorten said.

One commissioner and two deputies appointed by parliament would each serve a fixed five-year term, be able to hold public hearings and make findings of fact that could be referred to public prosecutors.

The new body would cost almost $60 million over four years.

Mr Shorten offered to work with the government to make the watchdog a reality sooner, saying: “It doesn’t have to be a Labor-Liberal sort of Punch and Judy show.”

Mr Turnbull said his government was considering the findings of an inquiry into the issue.

“The devil will always be in the detail … It’s not something to embark on in a rushed or ill-considered way,” he told reporters in Sydney ahead of Mr Shorten’s announcement, insisting the idea had not been ruled out.

However, Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce said appropriate checks were in place.

“If you really are corrupt, you’re going to get busted. You’re going to get caught, you’re going to go to jail,” he told 2GB radio.

Institute director Ben Oquist, whose think tank’s work helped shape Labor’s policy, says while there may still be resistance, he believes all federal politicians will come to see a new watchdog as inevitable.

“It would be in the government’s political interests and the nation’s economic interests for the prime minister to take this offer from the opposition leader today,” he said.

“It would help those politicians doing the right thing – and that’s most of them – to be seen in a better light.”

Mr Turnbull said Mr Shorten was “no anti-corruption warrior” and had done everything he could to prevent corruption in the union movement from being exposed.

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