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ICAC faces broader shake-up after committee stoush

Politics

Fresh recommendations for broad reform of the state’s anti-corruption watchdog could be proposed, amid a political stoush over the make-up of a parliamentary committee with oversight of ICAC.

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Parliament’s Crime and Public Integrity Policy Review Committee is the centre of a political row over who should replace outgoing chair Dennis Hood.

Hood has stepped aside along with fellow Liberal MP Fraser Ellis, the latter after pressure over a perceived conflict after outing himself as one of three MPs under investigation by former Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander.

That investigation is continuing under new ICAC Ann Vanstone.

Hood and Ellis have been replaced with fellow Liberals Steve Murray and David Ridgway, who resigned from cabinet at the same time as fellow former frontbenchers Stephan Knoll and Tim Whetstone, both of whom were implicated in the Country Members Allowance scandal that prompted the ICAC inquiry.

By convention, the chair of the committee is a Government MLC – with only Ridgway fitting both criteria.

However, SA Best crossbencher Frank Pangallo also put his name forward, with two ballots resulting in a tied vote – forcing the matter to go to a vote of the Upper House later today, which Pangallo is expected to win with Labor support.

The committee is finalising its long-awaited report into the state’s integrity agencies, which InDaily reported last month is likely to recommend curbing the ICAC’s ability to investigate matters of maladministration and misconduct – which comprised the vast bulk of Lander’s most publicly-visible inquiries.

But Pangallo told InDaily he wanted the report to go further – and would push for more recommendations, including giving the committee investigative powers over the ICAC.

“I’ve been on that committee since 2018… I’m across a lot of what we’ve done,” he said.

“With all due respect to David, he’s new to it – I’ve been there long enough to know the work the committee’s done.”

He said the report would be tabled in parliament in coming weeks but “there are a few elements in there that need to be included”.

“We didn’t have a good chance to deliberate on some of the recommendations and allow others I wanted in there… I think there needs to be some additions.”

He insisted it was “important we do have independent eyes as a chair”.

But the Government is incensed, with Treasurer Rob Lucas telling InDaily: “If the Labor Party proceeds down this particular course [of backing Pangallo] it’s a deliberate decision to breach what’s been a longstanding convention.”

“There’s always been a convention in the Legislative Council that Government members chair standing committees while select committees are chaired by non government members -we’ve accepted that historical precedent for many years, under Labor and Liberal governments,” he said.

“If Peter Malinauskas and [Labor’s Upper House leader] Kyam Maher have decided they couldn’t give a stuff about the conventions we abided by for 16 years in Opposition, then whenever Labor’s next in Government, they will have opened up the prospect of reciprocal action.”

He added that “we hope it’s a long period of time before retribution is meted out”.

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