Friday, 13 November 2020

A Commonwealth Integrity Commission which cannot burst the Canberra bubble?


Well, it is official. The exposure draft of Commonwealth Integrity Commission Bill 2020 released on 2 November 2020 forbids the Integrity Commissioner - or entities acting on his/her behalf - from openly mentioning parliamentarians or their staff in a corruption investigation report.

The Integrity Commissioner has the power to not investigate credible corruption allegations if he/she is so inclined and, can kick the problem over to the Australian Federal Police to investigate and report back or referred to the agency that is the subject of allegations to self-investigate.

The exception to this ability to kick the can down the road appears to be when the Integrity Commissioner is ordered to conduct a corruption investigation by the Minister.

All Commonwealth Integrity Commission hearings are to be held in private session when dealing with corruption in, or the integrity of staff members of, public sector agencies, higher education providers or research bodies.

Public hearings may be held with regard to investigations of alleged corruption in law enforcement agencies.

Witnesses called during hearings have to stay silent about anything to do with an investigation - including that they have been served a notice - under penalty of imprisonment for 2 years or 120 penalty units, or both.

The Integrity Commissioner also has the power to only partially publish the findings of a corruption investigation.

In addition it seems that the Integrity Commissioner can shield from public view an investigated person to whom allegations or adverse findings are attached, solely on the grounds that the commissioner believes it would damage the person's reputation it the corruption allegations or findings became known.

If a final report is prepared (whether by the Integrity Commissioner or another entity), the report may include certain findings and recommendations. However, findings may only be included about whether a person engaged in corrupt conduct if the conduct relates to a staff member of a law enforcement agency.

The final report of another entity (such as the Australian Federal Police) must not deal with any corruption issues that relate to parliamentarians or offices of parliamentarians.

See complete copy of exposure draft at

Deadline for submissions on the exposure draft is 12 February 2021.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Attorney-General Christian Porter have set aside a grand total of $147 million for the development and operation of the Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC), which at first glance appears to be intended to hide corruption on the part of federal politicians, their staff and any person in a federal government department or agency the government of the day wishes to protect.

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