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Fact sheet

Fact Check: Scott Morrison says the government's proposed integrity commission would have the powers of a royal commission. Is that correct?

Corruption Political corruption Government accountability Australia

Scott Morrison says the government's proposed integrity commission would have the powers of a royal commission. Is that correct? 

Experts told Fact Check there were indeed similarities between the coercive powers of a royal commission and the government's proposed model for a federal anti-corruption commission. For example, as referenced by Mr Morrison, the powers of search and the ability to compel witnesses to appear before the commission are comparable.

Other similarities include powers to require people to surrender documents and other evidence, the ability to apply for telecommunication intercepts, and the power to have individuals arrested or passports confiscated. However, by highlighting the similarities between the respective bodies, Mr Morrison's claim obscures important and fundamental differences. The Royal Commissions Act is relatively brief, leaving scope for commissioners to use their powers broadly. In contrast, the much longer Commonwealth Integrity Commission bill imposes many constraints, including how investigations can be initiated and carried out.

In particular, there are significant differences in powers in the proposed "public sector division", covering most of the public service, parliamentarians, higher education providers and research bodies — estimated to be 80 per cent of the proposed commission's remit. In this division, unlike a royal commission, the CIC would lack the power to hold public hearings. There are also differences in this division on what types of conduct can be investigated, who can be investigated and how much of its work can be reported publicly, in contrast to royal commissions. Experts told Fact Check that these restrictions undercut the new body's powers in a way that did not apply to royal commissions.They also pointed out that the CIC would have less ability than a royal commission to exercise the powers it did have, because its proposed annual budget fell well below the cost of many single-issue royal commissions.

Verdict: Mr Morrison is cherrypicking.

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