Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall supports urgent debate on the need for a Federal ICAC

25 November 2021



I support everything that has been said in this place in relation to the urgency to suspend standing orders and allow debate on this very important legislation. The debate on this bill is urgent, and I commend everyone who is here to actually support this. It has been 1,077 days since the Prime Minister promised to introduce a Commonwealth integrity commission and yet we are still to see a bill tabled in the House other than the one that has been tabled by the member for Indi. There has also been tabled and passed the through the Senate a similar bill by the Greens. As Senator Lambie pointed out in the other place, a child born on the day the promise was made would have since learned to crawl, walk and talk. All the government has done on this issue is talk. We simply need to get on to the next stage.

I call on the government to support this bill, presented by the member for Indi, which I was very proud to second in this place last month. This is an issue that is raised with me continually by constituents of all political persuasions. They are united in wanting to have trust and faith in politics, in government. They want to know that there is a commission and a mechanism to ensure there are proper processes and that the issues are properly investigated. This bill has been awarded top marks by an independent review by the Centre for Public Integrity. In contrast, the draft model from the government has had issues. It has been broadly consulted on and it has been criticised. So, rather than just stifle debate and stop this, why not come forward, debate the bill from the member for Indi, move amendments, have the discussion and have a collaborative approach to an issue that will raise all of us? We will all be the better for it in our communities if constituents can have trust and faith in the process of government. If the Attorney-General won't back her own bill to bring it in after over a thousand days, then I think it is time that the member for Indi's bill be debated.

An integrity commission with teeth will be able to investigate and put to bed so many of the issues that we've seen raised during this parliament, and it really is important that that be done. Many of the arguments that are raised are about, for example, some of the integrity commissions at state level. But that is misleading in terms of what this bill is. The bill from the member for Indi is the best of all the models. It is not a replica of one state's model versus another's. It is a collective of the best elements of all those models of integrity commission, and that's why it is important that we debate it. If the government has issues with elements of that bill, then it should move amendments, have the debate and discuss them. But 'nothing' cannot be the answer. We can't have the situation where we wait indefinitely and there is just nothing happening. Otherwise, we'll have allegations that sit out there and we'll just never get them resolved, whether they need to proceed to proper investigations or not.

It is important that a federal integrity commission be transparent. It is important that investigations with integrity are seen to be done by the public. They must be seen to be thorough. That is so important for the public to be able to have trust that government and processes are being held to account, because we in this place are spending the public's money. We pass laws. We are taking decisions that will impact on the lives of millions of people. We have a duty to ensure those decisions are for the greater good and are for the good of our communities. In that sense, the public must be able to be confident that those decisions are held to the highest standards and that there is a rigorous integrity and anticorruption process to catch any concerns.

So I commend to the government that it support this suspension of standing orders. We have had time throughout these last two years and the pandemic disruptions to debate a number of bills that couldn't, on any definition, have been described as urgent. Where there has been a will there has been a way to introduce legislation to deal with, I would argue, some issues that have never even been on the radar. But this issue, the biggest issue, the Australian people's trust in the Australian government's decisions, is one that has been left hanging. I think that has to stop, and we should debate it today.