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Lander backs national ICAC

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South Australia’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander has endorsed the creation of a national ICAC, InDaily can reveal.

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Lander addressed Commonwealth Club lunch at the Adelaide Pavilion function centre in Veale Gardens last week.

InDaily has been told Lander expressed support for the establishment of an independent corruption watchdog to oversee Commonwealth agencies and officials – including politicians – during a question and answer session with the audience.

The commissioner is currently on leave overseas, but his office – while unable to confirm what he said at the event – has confirmed to InDaily that he supports a federal ICAC.

In a written statement, Lander’s office said: “The Commissioner supports the creation of a federal ICAC, capable of independently investigating allegations of corrupt conduct across all Commonwealth agencies”.

“The Commissioner believes a wide-ranging federal ICAC would help to improve accountability and transparency within all agencies,” it said.

“After nearly three years as the ICAC in SA, the Commissioner has seen firsthand the importance of a strong and independent agency with a broad jurisdiction focused on the investigation of corruption and maladministration in public administration.”

However, the ICAC spokesperson added: “The decision to implement a federal ICAC … would be significant, and the Commissioner does not think that there is, at present, the political appetite to establish such an agency.”

The revelation comes a day after federal Labor Leader Bill Shorten said he would reopen a Senate inquiry into establishing a federal ICAC, if Labor is elected to government on Saturday.

Lander endorsed the creation of a federal public corruption watchdog during his presentation to the Commonwealth Club audience, InDaily understands, but warned that politicians were often reluctant to establish such a body, lest they suffer the experience of former New South Wales Premier Nick Greiner.

Greiner was forced to resign in 1992 when the New South Wales ICAC, which his government established, expressed concerns about his integrity over the offer of a public service role to a former minister.

Greiner was later cleared of wrongdoing by the NSW Court of Appeal, but by then his political career was over.

The SA ICAC spokesperson said Lander supported a national body to oversee Commonwealth agencies, but which would not supersede the functions of state-based commissions such as his own.

The statement sent to InDaily on behalf of the ICAC has been seen by Acting Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Patricia Christie, but Lander’s office has thus far not been able to contact him.

A State Government spokesperson said: “We have always supported the idea [of] a federal ICAC – that position remains unchanged”.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this year ruled out establishing a national ICAC in return for crossbench support for the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. The ABCC Bill failed to pass parliament, which gave the Government its trigger for the double dissolution election on Saturday.

According to its website, the federal Attorney-General’s department is “developing domestic policy on anti-corruption and engagement in a range of international anti-corruption forums”, but there is no independent anti-corruption watchdog for Commonwealth agencies.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has the power to investigate complaints from people who believe they have been treated unfairly by an Australian Government department or agency, and the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity oversees the integrity of federal law enforcement agencies.

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