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PM defends secrecy plans for corruption watchdog


Scott Morrison has fended off criticism of a proposed national integrity commission, warning against a NSW-style “kangaroo court” model with frequent public hearings.

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The Prime Minister announced plans for the commission after months of calls from Labor and the crossbench for a federal anti-corruption watchdog.

While shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus believes NSW’s ICAC is the blueprint the government should look to, Morrison is fiercely opposed.

“I have lived through what has been the farce of the New South Wales ICAC,” the prime minister told reporters in Brisbane today.

He said his home state’s anti-corruption body became a vehicle for corporations, bureaucrats and politicians to sling mud.

“That wasn’t elevating or doing anything about improving public administration,” Morrison said.

Labor, a prominent barrister and crucial crossbench MPs have raised concerns over the commission’s inability to hold public hearings for politicians and public servants accused of corruption.

Senior cabinet minister Christopher Pyne, whose South Australian state Liberal counterparts are in favour of public hearings for SA’s ICAC, defended the lack of public hearings, saying NSW’s ICAC had become a “star chamber”.

“It has ruined people’s reputations who have turned out to be not guilty of anything,” he told the Nine Network.

Dreyfus said the federal body should resemble NSW ICAC, which can hold public hearings and self-start inquiries.

“I think Australians don’t want a secret tribunal,” he told the ABC on Friday.

Former Law Council of Australia president Bret Walker SC said any body that did not report matters publicly when appropriate to do so would be “unquestionably” deficient.

“It looks like a model proposed by a government that’s been dragged to it rather than come to it openly,” Walker told ABC radio today.

The commission would prepare briefs of evidence for prosecutors, but not have the power to instigate its own investigations.

One part of the body will investigate corruption in law enforcement, which could face public hearings, and the other look at wrongdoing in the public sector.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has criticised the model, saying it is too limited in scope and lacks transparency.

Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie savaged the prime minister’s plan as “fundamentally flawed and entirely unacceptable”.

– with AAP

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