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Labor promises national anti-corruption body


Federal Labor wants to set up a national corruption watchdog within a year of winning government in a bid to restore public faith in politicians and the system.

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Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says he’s not putting the policy forward because he’s aware of any corrupt conduct, rather it’s a question of trust.

“The most corrosive sentiment, awash in western democracies around the world, is the idea that politicians are only in it for themselves,” he told the National Press Club today, in a year-opening speech.

“And that’s simply not true. But so long as the political news is dominated by the minority who do the wrong thing – the travel rorts and dodgy donors and sinecures where cabinet ministers walk straight into cushy jobs in the same sector – then we’re going to have a hard time convincing the Australian people that we’re serving their interests and not ours.”

A federal national integrity commission would be modelled on the lessons of state anti-corruption bodies.

It would have to be independent, well-resourced, secure from government interference, and have a broad jurisdiction to effectively run as a standing royal commission into serious and systemic corruption, Shorten said.

One commissioner and two deputies would each serve a fixed five-year term, report to Parliament annually, and make findings of fact that could be referred to public prosecutors if necessary.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pre-emptively went on the attack ahead of Labor’s announcement, saying Shorten’s track record in the area isn’t great.

“Bill Shorten is no anti-corruption warrior,” Turnbull told reporters in Sydney ahead of the speech.

“This is a guy who has done everything he could to prevent the corruption in the union movement and corruption between unions and businesses being exposed.”

He cited Shorten’s opposition to the trade union royal commission and the Registered Organisations Commission.

The Turnbull government continues to consider recommendations from a Senate committee about the best format for an integrity watchdog.

The prime minister insists it has not been ruled out, but cautioned it wasn’t an issue to rush and there was much to be learned from the states’ experiences where some watchdogs had worked better than others.

Shorten said Labor’s policy had been shaped over a year of consultation with experts and reviewing Australia’s anti-corruption framework.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on Sunday said a federal corruption watchdog was unnecessary because there was ample parliamentary oversight of government decisions.


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