If corruption does not exist in Australia's federal sector, it would make Canberra the only corruption-free place in the world, Geoffrey Watson argues. In this lecture, the former ICAC counsel calls for the creation of a strong and independent federal anti-corruption commission.
As a community we have entered a social compact under which we have entrusted our future, and our children's future, to our government. I do not mean just politicians or elected government officials, I include all those public officials working in government-related offices—we have entrusted this responsibility to them as well. This is where a relatively wealthy country like Australia has an advantage over most of the world—we are able to remunerate our public officials, if not handsomely, at least sufficiently.
...based upon my work over four years with the two premier anti-corruption bodies in New South Wales—the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and the Police Integrity Commission—that we are grossly underestimating the nature and extent of corruption, and in our ignorance we are failing to compile sufficient information so that we can understand and assess its effects on our community. All we know is enough to suggest that there is a serious problem.
Geoffrey Watson SC was senior counsel assisting the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption. This is an edited extract of his speech for the Cranlana Programme 2015 Alumni Speaker Series.