There are significant gaps in the jurisdiction and investigative powers of the existing federal agencies responsible for scrutinising the public sector and government. No federal agency has the power to investigate corrupt conduct as defined by our state based commissions. No federal agency can investigate misconduct of MPs, ministers, political staff or the judiciary. The federal agencies that do have strong investigative powers, such as the federal police, can use them only when investigating criminal charges. No federal agency has the ability to hold regular public hearings, meaning that corruption and misconduct is not properly exposed to the public. Many cases of corruption reach across state borders, but state anti-corruption bodies are forced to abandon investigations once they reach the federal sphere. Consequently there is a need for an overarching body with umbrella type functions for the supervision of corruption and integrity in every area of federal public administration.
There is a growing public distrust of federal government with a recent poll finding 85% of Australians believe there is corruption in federal politics. In addition, there is overwhelming public support for a National Integrity Commission, with a recent poll finding over 80% of respondents support the establishment of a commission, and 78% of respondents supportive of a commission that holds public hearings.
The design of a National Integrity Commission is critical. That design must incorporate features which ensure that the commission increases public trust in government. It must therefore be such as to allow corruption and misconduct to be properly investigated and exposed without improperly and unfairly prejudicing the innocent. This briefing paper was prepared by the National Integrity Committee to establish design principles for a national integrity commission that will ensure it is given the strength and tools to effectively do its job effectively and fairly.