The House of Representatives has voted unanimously to establish a National Anti-Corruption Commission.
However, independent MP Helen Haines proposed a number of changes to the design of the Commission which were rejected by the Government.
Here’s what happened.
What it is
The National Anti-Corruption Commission would be an independent body with the power to investigate corrupt conduct in the public sector. It would not investigate crimes, but it could make findings of corruption and police referrals. It could investigate historical allegations and act on tip-offs from anybody (including anonymously).
Under the Government’s proposal, it could hold its hearings in public only in “exceptional circumstances” where the Commissioner decides it is in the public interest.
After the Government released its proposed Bill earlier this year, it was sent for consideration to a committee which included representatives from Labor, the Coalition, and the crossbench.
The Government agreed to several changes as a result of this process, including a clarification that journalists can not be required to identify informants. These changes passed the House with no objections.
A number of amendments to the Bill were proposed by Independent MP Helen Haines, who has been a long-time advocate of an integrity commission.
Haines proposed allowing public hearings whenever the Commissioner decides it is in the public interest. She also proposed specifically allowing the Commission to investigate ‘pork barrelling’ (allocating grants for partisan purposes), and to give a cross-parliamentary committee more power over the Commission’s funding and the appointment of the Commissioner.
Haines’ amendments were all voted down. The Greens and most Independent MPs supported all amendments. Liberal MP Bridget Archer and Independent Dai Le voted for most of them, and Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie voted for some.
The Government and the rest of the Coalition (apart from Archer) voted against all Haines’ amendments. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, the Minister responsible for the Bill, noted that the Commission already had the power to investigate pork barrelling in some circumstances.
What happens now?
Now that the Bill has passed through the House of Representatives, it will go to the Senate. If it passes the Senate, it will pass into law.
Proposed amendments have already been circulated by Greens and crossbenchers in the Senate, including on the bar for holding public hearings.