Showing posts with label right wing politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label right wing politics. Show all posts

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

The lies Liberals tell on the subject of aged care



The Australian, 7 February 2019:

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt was handed a departmental briefing report showing the “winners and losers” from the Coalition’s $2 billion savings drive in the aged-care sector shortly after Scott Morrison announced a royal commission and denied funding cuts.

Documents obtained by The Australian under Freedom of Information laws show the proportion of “losers” almost tripled to 53 per cent following the budget savings revealed in late 2015.

In the three-year period to 2018, aged-care services that had been classified as “winners” almost halved to 47 per cent, according to the brief sent to Mr Wyatt.
A series of “hot issue briefs, question time briefs and general briefs” sent to Mr Wyatt last year acknowledged the budget hit to the Aged Care Funding Instrument — which is the basic taxpayer care subsidy paid to all nursing homes — together with “increasing cost pressures will be putting pressure on the sector”.

Mr Wyatt was also made aware of reports of “cut backs to staffing”. At a press conference announcing the royal commission into aged care in September, the Prime Minister was questioned about two cuts to the ACFI in the 2015 mid-year economic update and the 2016 budget but denied any had been made.

“No, no, the Labor Party said that. I don’t accept that,” he said. Two days later, a question time brief prepared for Mr Wyatt offered advice on what to say if asked about funding cuts to ACFI.

The ministerial brief also contains a breakdown of funding changes by domain, revealing that average annual taxpayer subsidies per resident increased by just $400 between 2016-17 and 2017-18 despite the growing frailty and complexity of Australians as they enter residential aged care older than ever before.

For the first time, funding for the two areas that provide extra boosts for nursing home residents with significant behavioural problems and complex healthcare requirements went backwards by $300 a person.

The peak body for aged-care providers, ahead of the April 2 budget, has urged the Coalition to include an additional payment of almost $700 million each year.

“This estimate reflects a range of factors, including the value of foregone indexation (through ACFI),” Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) says in its pre-budget submission, seen by The Australian. “This is approximately a 5.2 per cent increase in residential care funding in 2019-20, noting that this is difficult to calculate as forward estimates for residential and home care are no longer separately reported.” LASA said it considered the money to be a “down payment” and a notably larger funding boost might be needed following the findings of the royal ­commission.” The commission, which is due to release its interim report in Oct­ober and the final version by the end of April 2020, has already highlighted the widespread industry practice of “doping” nursing home residents, which doctors, nurses and consumer groups attribute to overworked staff. [my yellow highlighting]

Monday, 11 February 2019

Liberals taking yet another leaf out of Donald Trump's election campaign play book


During the 2016 US presidential election campaign the Internet was littered with pressure groups which were not who they said they were and whose aims were not those they publicly stated.

Donald Trump and/or his supporters appeared to be behind many of these groups.

It seems the Liberal Party is also forming these faux pressure groups ahead of the 2019 federal election campaign in Australia.......

The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 February 2019:

A lobby group masquerading as a grassroots organisation of disgruntled retirees is actually a network of professional lobbyists involved in the trucking industry and the Liberal Party, with a history of campaigning against Labor government policies.

Defenders of Self-Funded Retirees says it was formed by "hard-working Australians who reject Labor's proposal to impose double taxation and to demonise us". 

However, the association is managed by Liberal Party member and ACT Senate candidate Robert Gunning, along with a number of Mr Gunning's friends from the trucking lobby.

The network is one of a number of interest groups set up after Labor announced its plan to abolish refundable franking credits, and has contributed heavily to Liberal MP Tim Wilson's controversial parliamentary inquiry into Labor's policy.

It also campaigned against Labor in the Longman byelection and aims to marshal an army of volunteers for the looming federal election, in which the dividend imputation policy is set to be a major battleground.

Company records show Defenders of Self-Funded Retirees Ltd is owned by Canberra-based lobbyist Andrew Higginson, Mr Gunning's Gold Coast friend Robert "Bob" Harrison and a man called John Richard Evans.

Mr Gunning is a lifelong trucking industry lobbyist who headed the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association and the Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association. He has said his proudest achievement was the abolition of Labor's Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal…..

Mr Gunning quit the LBCA to contest the 2016 election for the Liberals against Andrew Leigh in the Canberra seat of Fenner, one of the safest Labor electorates in the country. His role in Defenders of Self-Funded Retirees was revealed because his name appears beside the posts on the group's Facebook page.


Friday, 1 February 2019

Scott Morrison and his cronies want to buy your vote ahead of the May 2019 Australian federal election


Despite there being a growing urgency to invest in the full range of climate change mitigation measures, in the face of evidence that it is going to take billions of dollars to step back from the developing environmental, social and economic disaster developing in the Murray-Darling Basin, regardless of constant cost cutting in the welfare sector leading to a fall in services for older Australians and those with disabilities, while all the while failing to confront a growing public debt which now stands at est. 679.5 billion, the Morrison Lib-Nats Coalition Government intends to try and buy votes ahead of the May 2019 federal election.

Brisbane Times, 28 January 2019:

The Morrison government is now more focused on protecting its electoral chances than the nation's finances with claims it is going on a pre-poll spending spree based on a short-term boost in tax collections.

Deloitte Access Economics said in a quarterly report out on Tuesday that Scott Morrison is looking to buy back disappointed voters, with the government sitting on $9.2 billion worth of tax cuts and handouts that were included in the December mid-year budget update but not announced.

Deloitte Access partner Chris Richardson said the government had promised $16 billion in extra spending and tax cuts in the past six months, the biggest short-term spend by a government since Kevin Rudd in 2009 in the depths of the global financial crisis.

He said with the budget in a reasonable condition on the back of strong global growth and a surge in company tax profits, the Morrison government had made a decision to woo back voters with taxpayers' cash.

"Of late, the government has been busily taking decisions that add to spending and cut taxes, thereby worsening the bottom line rather than repairing it," he said.
"After all, they've got the dollars to do it, they're behind in the polls and the election is just around the corner.

"That powerful combination of motive and opportunity means that the government's focus has shifted to shoring up its electoral standing rather than shoring up the nation's finances."

News.com.au, 24 January 2019;

Pensioners and some families could receive one-off cash payments from the Morrison government in a pre-election sweetener.

Senior advisers are looking at two one-off payments that could be included in the April 2 budget, the Australian Financial Review reported on Thursday.

If the government decides to go ahead with the plan, the payments could be distributed before the federal election, which is due by mid-May.

The first option is a one off handout to age pensioners and the second is a cash injection for families.

It’s believed the single payments would be aimed at luring those who won’t directly benefit from the Coalition’s $144 billion personal income tax cuts being phased in over the next six years.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

The relentless drive by Australian federal and state governments to create unsafe data collection and retention systems continues unabated



The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 January 2019:

More than 1 million Australians have had their name and address added to the electoral roll and then automatically passed to global marketing giants without their knowledge.

Direct enrolment laws passed by Parliament in 2012 meant Australians no longer had to register on the electoral roll to have their details entered, with information of workers and school students scanned from drivers licences, Centrelink and records from the Board of Studies in each state.

The electoral roll has since been handed over to credit-check operators for identification purposes designed to help financial services firms such as banks, Afterpay and Zip, to run fraud, anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism checks, but four of those identity firms are now running global marketing operations using data analytics.

No government body has been able to advise if anyone is monitoring the companies for breaches of the electoral act, which carries fines for using the data in commercial operations, or if they are monitoring the separation of data between the companies' identification and marketing arms.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed this week that AXCIOM, Experian, Global Data and illion (formerly known as debt collectors Dun & Bradstreet) all have access to the electoral roll as "prescribed authorities". In their secondary businesses, each boasts of their ability to provide marketing data analytics on millions of Australians to their clients but maintain they are in full compliance with the privacy act and do not use the data for marketing purposes.

AXCIOM and Global Data have not responded to multiple requests for comment. An auto-reply email from AXCIOM said "data monetisation awaits!"

The only non-marketing firm among the group, US credit check giant Equifax, had the records of 145.5 million hacked in a breach in 2017 was fined $3.5 million by the Federal Court last year for misleading, deceptive and unconscionable conduct…..

….database that contains information on 16 million Australians. More than 1.5 million Australians who were eligible to vote - but not on the electoral roll - are likely to have been added since the laws passed.

School students as young as 16 have been caught up in the data transfer, with more than 18,846 people aged 16 and 17 provisionally on the electoral roll as of December 31.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Prime Minister Scott Morrion's bullying of single mothers increases


The Guardian, 28 January 2019:

Single mothers placed on a compulsory welfare program for disadvantaged parents allege they were pressured into allowing private job service providers to collect their “sensitive information”.

ParentsNext participants are asked to sign a privacy notification and consent form, which is similar to documentation provided to those on other welfare programs such as the employment scheme Jobactive.

The program is compulsory for those who want to receive parenting payments and are considered “disadvantaged”, but departmental guidelines state that participants may decline to sign the form and still take part.

Instead, some case workers have told participants that they would have their payments cut if they refused to sign the form.

The situation has meant women who did not want to give their consent have done so anyway. One of the five participants who spoke to Guardian Australia about their experience said they felt the situation represented “coercion”.

“She [my case worker] just said, flat out, ‘If you don’t sign it, you won’t get your parenting payment’,” one mother, who did not want to be named, told Guardian Australia. “It was simple as that.”

The women were concerned by the fact the privacy form states that providers “may collect sensitive information … [which] may include … medical information”. It is understood the form would allow providers to handle participants’ mental health information.

Parenting payment is the sole income for many women on the ParentsNext program, which is currently the subject of a Senate inquiry.

While is standard practice for welfare recipients to be asked to sign privacy consent and notification forms, the chairman of the Australian Privacy Foundation, David Vaile, noted that, in this case, the women felt they needed to sign the form in order to keep receiving their payments.

“It has all the characteristics of bad consent,” Vaile said.

Ella Buckland, who has been campaigning against ParentsNext since she was placed on the program, has asked her provider to destroy the consent form she signed last year. She was told she needed to sign the form to take part in the program – and therefore keep her payments.

“I felt humiliated and disempowered that I didn’t have a choice,” Buckland, a former Greens staffer, told Guardian Australia. “[I thought] if I didn’t sign it, I wouldn’t be able to feed my kids.”

The department has told Buckland in writing she may withdraw her consent at any time. Her provider, who did not reply to a request for comment, has been asked by the Department of Jobs and Small Business to respond to her claims.

Terese Edwards, the chief executive of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children, said many women had legitimate reasons for refusing to sign the form, such as having left a violent relationship.

 “Providing this information reduces their sense of security,” she said. “It could be where the child is getting schooled, which then has the address of the parent. It could also have the name of the child.”

Among the women Guardian Australia has spoken is a mother of a transgender child who did not want to sign the form because she was concerned about the privacy of her daughter.

Eva* is eligible for an exemption from the program because she homeschools her daughter, but was told in a text message she would have to sign the consent form for this to be processed. She was also told she would have to attend a meeting with her provider, about two hours’ drive away, and to provide evidence that her daughter was homeschooled......

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

One of the most blindingly obvious truths about Australian super funds



The 16 Industry SuperFunds operating in Australia are run only to benefit members, have low fees and never pay commissions to financial planners.

They have long had the reputation of performing well for members, so that a worker retires with a larger super balance than if he/she had joined a retail fund.

Needless to say that reputation is pooh poohed by a good many Liberal and Nationals politicians whenever the subject of compulsory superannuation came up.

It appears that it will now be harder for those same politicians to take that attitude now.

The Australian, 19 January, p.5:

Every one of the 50 worst-performing balanced superannuation investments over seven years has been operated by retail funds such as ANZ, Westpac and IOOF, with just one product offered by the for-profit sector making it onto the list of the top 135 performers.

In revelations that categorically bring to an end the fierce three-decade dispute between retail and industry funds over which is superior, secretive and highly detailed industry data obtained by The Weekend Australian shows that regardless of the investment timeframe or level of risk involved, retail funds are unquestionably consistently at the bottom and industry funds are consistently at the top.

Despite every worker being forced to divert a portion of every pay packet into compulsory super since it was introduced in 1992 — and the key choice most people face being whether to invest in an industry fund or a retail fund — no list of worst-performing super investments has ever been made public, with analyst companies refusing to release them.

Retail and industry funds account for more than $1.28 trillion of the nation’s retirement savings and the revelations back renewed calls from federal minister Kelly O’Dwyer this week for the creation of a Future Fund-style national retirement fund to keep the nation’s super savings out of the hands of the “many rent seekers and ticket clippers” in the sector.

The highly detailed data from SuperRatings, considered the most comprehensive and accurate in the nation and used by the Productivity Commission in preparing last week’s report into the $2.8tn sector, lists 278 “balanced” super options offered by the nation’s retail and industry funds.

Over the seven years to March 2018, of all funds in “accumulation” phase, where the member is still working, the 50 worst-performing were all operated by retail funds and all but one of the 17 worst performers were managed by Westpac’s BT or ANZ’s OnePath….

Retail funds have for many years argued APRA data showing their poor performance can’t be used to judge them because it looks at only the overall performance of “funds”, which usually operate numerous different investment options.This SuperRatings data specifically examines those individual options, negating that argument.


Friday, 4 January 2019

Something to remember every time a Liberal or Nationals politician opens his/her mouth in 2019


With both a NSW state election and a federal general election in the first half of this year the Murdoch press and Coalition spokespersons will at some point turn their thoughts to the allegedly oppressive burden of welfare payments on Australian taxpayers and the prevalence of so-called 'welfare bludgers' that are supposedly ripping off the taxpayer.

Leaving aside the fact that every single person in Australia pays one or more forms of tax, even welfare recipients, what is the truth about who gets what from government tax concessions or cash transfers?

In 2018 Australia’s richest 20 per cent of the population owned est. 68 per cent of national private wealth, which means that they owned 80 times more in assets and savings than the poorest 20 per cent of the population.

They also received higher tax and transfer amounts from federal government coffers than welfare recipients.

Here is how that comes about......

Per Capita, The Cost of Privilege Report #7, Executive Summary excerpts, 29 March 2018:

The modelling assessed the various tax concessions and other benefits available to high-income earners and contrasts them with well-understood direct income support measures for low-income earners and those reliant on our social security safety net.

This report quantifies the annual cost to the federal budget of various measures that allow Australians in our wealthiest quintile to minimise their taxable income, thereby reducing government revenue that pays for services for all citizens.

These measures include superannuation tax concessions, negative gearing, capital gains tax concessions, the use of discretionary trusts, the exemption from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) of private health insurance and education, and the exemption from Capital Gains Tax (CGT) of the principal place of residence. All of these concessions disproportionately benefit high income and high wealth households. 

Our analysis shows that, in combination, these measures impose a cost on the federal budget that easily outstrips that of any single welfare recipient group.

According to our calculations, the cost of foregone tax revenue from the richest 20% of Australians is over AU$68 billion per annum. That’s around $37 a week from every worker in the country.1

In contrast, the cost of income support in the 2016-2017 financial year was, by group:

Age Pension $44.468 billion ($35 a week per worker)

Assistance to families with children $36.404 billion ($20 a week per worker)

Assistance to people with disabilities $31.721 billion ($17 a week per worker)

Newstart (unemployment benefits) $10.994 billion ($6 a week per worker)

1 Calculated using the methodology outlined in Answer to Question On Notice No: 257, Taxation paid and 2016-17 Financial Year, what was the total government spend? Senate Economics Legislation Committee, Treasury Portfolio, Budget Policy Division, Supplementary Budget Estimates 2017 – 2018


Here is a practical example of the value of tax concessions to the third family above who fall within the top 20 per cent of the population:

Household Three – Michael and Gillian

Michael and Gillian have two children, Isabella, aged 12 and Max, aged 8.

They paid off their mortgage two years ago and live in a four bedroom house in a bayside suburb of Melbourne. 

Isabella and Max go to the local Catholic primary school and will go on to Catholic secondary college. The family has intermediate hospital and extras private health insurance.

Michael is a Team Leader at a large telecommunications company, and earns $230,000 per year. Gillian works 20 hours a week, during school hours, in the HR department of a major bank, and earns $60,000 per year.

Both Michael and Gillian salary sacrifice into their superannuation accounts up to the $25,000 concessional cap. While Michael can only contribute an extra $3,150 of his pre-tax income to super on top of the $21,850 in compulsory contributions already made by his employer, Gillian can contribute $19,000, reducing her taxable income to $41,000.

They own a three bedroom house in Rye, which they rent out through AirBnB as a holiday home and negatively gear, allowing them to reduce Michael’s tax by a further $9,400.

The value of the capital gains tax concession on their holiday home gives them $4,500 in concessional benefits annually, and the tax exemption of their family home in Melbourne provides another concession of $23,500 per year.

Michael and Gillian also receive GST tax exemptions on their private health and education costs to the value of $3,250.00 per year.

Their combined family income after tax is $215,446 per annum, or $4,143.19 per week.

The total amount received from the taxpayer in tax concessions for this family is $71,705 per year, or $1,378.94 per week.

This imbalance in the value of government assistance received by different groups in society, which is so strongly biased towards giving most to the affluent, is a perfect example of Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison's social and economic policies structured to give to those who already have.

Giving to those he appears to believe are 'good' or 'worthy' because they have high levels of income and assets, as opposed to those who are 'bad' or 'unworthy' because they have little in the way of income and assets.

When I was young this attitude was simply described as the Protestant Ethic, now it appears to be known as the Prosperity Gospel.

Under either name it is not the mark of an egalitarian society or of a nation which prides itself on giving everyone "a fair go".

Something readers might care to think on as they decide who to vote for this year.

Monday, 24 December 2018

How the Turnbull & Morrison Coalition Governments suspended legal principle and stooped to extortion in order to pursue vulnerable welfare recipients


In July 2016 the Department of Human Services (DHS) - Centrelink launched a new online compliance intervention (OCI) system for raising and recovering debts.

Its aim was to raise up to $1 billion dollars allegedly owed by welfare recipients.

This compliance intervention became known colloquially as robo-debt.

Current Australian Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison was federal treasurer for the first two years of the ongoing robo-debt scheme.

During this time the suicide of welfare recipients being pursued for so-called debt recovery began to be reported.

Since 2016 only a small number of welfare recipients have brought their robo-debts before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for adjudication. It has reportedly set aside 34 per cent of these robo-debts (or one in every three) and varied another 2,4 per cent.

Most welfare recipients don't have the resources to fight these alleged debts.

The Guardian, 18 December 2018:

Centrelink’s “robo-debt” system is a form of illegal extortion allowed by failings across a “plethora” of democratic and legal institutions, according to a former member of the administrative appeals tribunal.

Prof Terry Carney, a long-serving member of the AAT, has penned an extraordinary attack on the institutional failings that allowed the robo-debt program.

It’s the second time Carney, who helped oversee the writing of Australia’s social security laws, has used academic journals to condemn the system as illegal this year.

Carney’s last paper said robo-debt involved the enforcement of “illegal” debts that in some cases were inflated or nonexistent, an allegation that was forcefully rejected by the Department of Human Services. Hank Jongen, the department’s spokesman, said at the time that the department “strongly refutes any claims that it has conducted its compliance activities in a manner which is inconsistent with the legislation”.

This time, Carney used a piece in the Alternative Law Journal to map out the numerous shortcomings that allowed the system to come into being and operate for 18 months without challenge.

 “The pivot for this article is not so much that Centrelink lacks legal authority for raising virtually all debts based on a robo-debt ‘reverse onus’ methodology rather than use its own information gathering powers – for this remains essentially uncontested,” he wrote. “Rather it is extraordinary that this went unpublicised and uncorrected for over two years.”

Centrelink has long used a system of automated data-matching to detect discrepancies in income reported by welfare recipients, to detect and claw back overpayments. But it introduced significant changes from July 2016, reducing human oversight and expanding the system considerably in a bid to recover more debts and improve the budget. The new system effectively shifted the onus onto the welfare recipient to prove they owed no debt to the government.

The system spat out letters to individual welfare recipients as soon a discrepancy was detected in their reported income to Centrelink and records held by other agencies, like the tax office.

A flawed process was used to calculate their debt if they did not respond or could not produce evidence of their previous pay, which involved averaging out their yearly income across all 26 of Centrelink’s fortnightly reporting periods. The process often led to the false assumption that a welfare recipient had worked across an entire year and was ineligible for social security, thereby creating a debt.

Carney argues the rushed design of what he described as a “machine-learning budget ‘savings measure’” trumped good design standards. He says inquiries by the auditor general and the commonwealth ombudsman into the system had failed to consider whether it was raising debts on a lawful basis.

Carney also argues that Centrelink, by pursuing debts raised through the controversial “income averaging” technique, has failed to adhere to ethical administration. He says Centrelink has continued to use this method, despite knowing AAT rulings that it is invalid…….

The privacy safeguards in the first tier of the AAT mean that most legal challenges against welfare debts are not publicised, he writes. That means that “rulings overturning Centrelink reasoning remain hidden from the public”…..

TERRY CARNEY AO, Emeritus Professor, University of Sydney, Centre for Health Governance, Law and Ethics, 2018:

* University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vulnerability: False Hope For Vulnerable Social Security Clients?

Saturday, 22 December 2018

HEADLINES OF THE WEEK



“Weighed down by sex and sleaze, the Coalition ends the year the way it started”  [The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 December 2018]

“365 days of failure: how Australia’s elites failed us in 2018”  [Crikey, 21 December 2018]

Still no hope of a genuine national energy policy as crew on the sinking liner SS Liberal Party brawl on deck



Financial Review, 19 December 2018:

NSW Climate and Energy Minister Don Harwin vowed to push on with his crusade to "end the Canberra climate wars" after federal minister Angus Taylor derailed his proposal to plot a national pathway to net zero emissions by 2050 at an acrimonious Council of Australian Governments' meeting.

Tempers flared at the meeting of energy ministers in Adelaide after Mr Taylor used an obscure procedural rule to block Mr Harwin's motion for a net zero emissions pathway. A furious Mr Harwin said that if Mr Taylor was going to use obscure procedural rules to block a motion supported by most state and territory energy ministers "be it on your own head".

The bitter split between the NSW and federal coalition governments comes as Gladys Berejiklian's NSW Coalition government faces a March 23 election in which climate policy looms large after voters sharply rejected the Morrison government's climate change agnostic energy policies at the Wentworth byelection in October and the Victorian state election in November.

Mr Harwin said in a statement after the meeting: "I am very disappointed by the actions of the federal government at COAG Energy Council in Adelaide today.
"The refusal, on procedural grounds, to let the vital matter of restoring an emissions obligation into national energy policy be discussed is extraordinary. NSW will continue to pursue this critical matter with COAG Energy Council."

…..the NSW-federal government stoush dominated the aftermath of the meeting as Mr Harwin told reporters he was furious that "the Commonwealth used the rule book to try and shutdown a discussion on emissions".

"As a sign of how out of touch they are, they wouldn't let us have the discussion," Mr Harwin said. "NSW is not giving up on this. It's absolutely imperative that we end the Canberra climate wars. "


Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Scott Morrison's secretive new public sector corruption division with no teeth - not even a set of badly fitting dentures


Alan Moir Cartoon

A federal statutory body, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) has been in existence since December 2006 and is headed by the Integrity Commissioner. The current Integrity Commissioner is Michael Griffin AM.

There is also a Parliamentary Joint Committee on the ACLEI.

The Morrison plan for a new Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC) intends to retain the ACLEI as one of two divisions within the CIC and expand the number of government agencies within this first division’s jurisdiction from twelve (12) to sixteen (16) – otherwise it is business as usual for the multi-agency ACLEI.

At the same time the Morrison Government intends the over-arching CIC to have a second division – the Public Sector Division - without the full powers of statutory anti-corruption commissions.

It is this division which will be charged with investigating corruption allegations based on interactions of sitting members of federal parliament and departmental staff with corporations, lobby groups and private individuals.

Members of the public will have no right to lay complaints or concerns before the Deputy-Commissioner who will head this second division. Only departmental heads and the Australian Federal Police appear to have the right to refer a matter to the Public Sector Division.

The division will not hold public hearings or publish the results of any secret hearings. There will be no transparency in its processes.

This second division represents business as usual for federal parliamentarians, as the government of the day will be able to keep even the most egregious matters under its adjudication by asserting the matter should be classified as a straightforward Code of Conduct breach or a simple matter of non-compliance.

The new Commonwealth Integrity Commission is expected to have an annual budget of around $30 million. A sum which reflects its toothless status.

BACKGROUND


The Australian Government proposes to establish a Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC) to detect, deter and investigate suspected corruption and to work with agencies to build their resilience to corruption and their capability to deal with corrupt misconduct. The CIC will consist of a ‘law enforcement integrity division’ incorporating the existing structure, jurisdiction and powers of ACLEI and a new ‘public sector integrity division’. Both the law enforcement and public sector divisions of the CIC will be headed by separate deputy commissioners, who will each report to a new Commonwealth Integrity Commissioner. The two divisions will have different jurisdictional coverage, powers and functions, tailored to the nature of the entities within their jurisdiction. The law enforcement division will retain the powers and functions of ACLEI, but with an expanded jurisdiction to cover several further agencies that exercise the most significant coercive powers and therefore present a more significant corruption risk. The public sector division will cover the remaining public sector. As such, its powers and functions will be different to those of the law enforcement division and will be appropriately tailored.

Jurisdiction 

Law enforcement division
The law enforcement division will have jurisdiction over those agencies already within ACLEI’s remit, being:

• the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission
• the AFP • the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)
• the Department of Home Affairs, and
• prescribed aspects of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR).
 Its jurisdiction will also be expanded to cover additional public sector agencies with law enforcement functions and access to sensitive information, such as the:
• Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
• Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA)
• Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), and
• Australian Taxation Office (ATO)……

Public sector division

The public sector division of the CIC will have jurisdiction over:

• public service departments and agencies, parliamentary departments, statutory agencies, Commonwealth companies and Commonwealth corporations
• Commonwealth service providers and any subcontractors they engage, and
• parliamentarians and their staff.

By extending the jurisdiction of the public sector division of the CIC to service providers and contractors, the CIC will have the capacity to oversee the integrity of entities which expend or receive significant amounts of Commonwealth funding where there is evidence of corrupt conduct that meets the relevant criminal threshold proposed. The CIC will also be able to investigate members of the public or other private entities that receive or deal with Commonwealth funds (and might not otherwise be within jurisdiction), to the extent that their suspected corrupt conduct intersects with a public official’s suspected corrupt conduct….

The public sector division of the CIC will be responsible for investigating ‘corrupt conduct’ where the commissioner has a reasonable suspicion that the conduct in question constitutes a criminal offence. Notably, the public sector division will investigate conduct capable of constituting a nominated range of specific new and existing criminal offences that will constitute corrupt conduct in the public sector.
 ‘Corrupt conduct’ will include abuse of public office, misuse of official information and non-impartial exercise of official functions. A range of consolidated and new public sector corruption offences will be included in the Criminal Code Act 1995 (the Criminal Code). The information below under the heading ‘Amendments to the Criminal Code’ outlines a preliminary summary of ways in which amendments might be made to relevant legislative offences that will collectively form the jurisdictional basis for the CIC. 

It is intended that the public sector division will focus on the investigation of serious or systemic corrupt conduct, rather than looking into issues of misconduct or non-compliance under various codes of conduct. Misconduct that is not defined as a criminal offence at Commonwealth law is considered more appropriately dealt with by the entities where the misconduct occurs: public sector agencies for public servants; Houses of Parliament for parliamentarians; the Prime Minister for Ministers; the Special Minister of State for ministerial staff….

Powers

Law enforcement division

The law enforcement division of the CIC will have access to the coercive and investigative powers that ACLEI currently does—these are necessary because the agencies within jurisdiction themselves have access to significant coercive powers and in many cases, sensitive intelligence, personal or other information. The consequences of corruption in circumstances where public officials have access to law enforcement or other coercive powers is generally more significant than for public officials without access to such powers. Those with access to coercive powers and knowledge of law enforcement methods are better able to disguise corruption and corrupt conduct can have a greater impact (for example, where millions of dollars of illicit drugs are permitted to enter the Australian economy). 8 The law enforcement division will have the power to:

• compel the production of documents
• question people
• hold public and private hearings
• arrest
• enter/search premises
• seize evidence
• undertake controlled operations and assumed identities, and
• undertake integrity testing.

Public sector division

The powers available to the public sector division reflect the different nature of the corruption risk in the areas it will oversight. The public sector division of the CIC will have the power to:

• compel the production of documents
• question people
• hold private hearings, and
• enter/search premises.

It will not be able to:

• exercise arrest warrants
• hold public hearings, or
• make findings of corruption, criminal conduct or misconduct at large.

The extent to which the CIC public sector integrity division will have the ability to access telecommunications and surveillance device powers will be part of the consultation process on the proposed model. The law enforcement integrity division will retain all powers that ACLEI currently holds......

Referrals about parliamentarians and their staff 

The public sector division could receive a referral regarding a parliamentarian or their staff that met the CIC’s threshold for investigation from the IPEA, the AEC, the AFP or other integrity agencies. For example, if the IPEA observed potentially corrupt conduct that it reasonably suspected was capable of constituting a criminal offence, it could refer that activity to the CIC for investigation. 

The public sector division of the CIC will also be able to investigate parliamentarians or their staff where an existing CIC investigation into suspected corruption within a different part of the public sector revealed evidence that will meet the investigation threshold. For example, if the CIC was investigating suspected criminal corrupt conduct within a procurement process involving a department, and through that investigation it found evidence suggesting corrupt activity by any Member of Parliament or member of the executive government which it reasonably expected met the relevant criminal threshold, the CIC could initiate an investigation into that matter. 

The CIC will not investigate direct complaints about Ministers, Members of Parliament or their staff received from the public at large.......