Paul Brereton, the head of the new National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), said it received 44 corruption referrals in its first two days of operation.
Here’s what you need to know.
First, what is the NACC?
The NACC was established by Parliament last year. It is similar to state anti-corruption bodies like NSW’s ICAC and Victoria’s IBAC.
The NACC will investigate incidents of “serious or systemic” corruption by public officials in the federal system, such as politicians, public servants or contractors (e.g. consultants).
Corruption is a broad term that can include breaching the public’s trust or using public office for private gain. It can be criminal, but isn’t always, and the NACC is not a court.
Who is Brereton?
Paul Brereton is a former judge. He is best known for leading an internal inquiry into allegations of war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.
The inquiry, known as the ‘Brereton Report’, found the allegations were “credible”.
How referrals to the NACC work
Any member of the public can make a referral to the NACC on their website or by phone. In his speech yesterday, Brereton promised the NACC would consider every referral, but said “only a small proportion” would trigger an investigation.
The NACC can also start its own investigations without a referral, and Brereton said he was already considering high-profile corruption allegations raised in media reports.
Brereton said the NACC would consider the “seriousness and scale” of allegations in deciding whether to investigate.
The NACC can investigate historic matters, but Brereton said it would more likely focus on matters with “current practical relevance”. He also suggested investigations of high-profile matters could be used to “clear the air” even if there is not “a significant prospect of a finding of corrupt conduct”.
Brereton warned against anyone trying to “weaponise” the NACC with “inappropriate and unfounded referrals”. He also said he would be willing to make public statements to call any such referrals out.
Brereton said he wanted the commission to become “a respected part of the machinery of our democracy”.
“I have nothing to gain from favouring, and nothing to lose from offending any politician,” Brereton added. “I will to the best of my ability fearlessly, fairly and impartially discharge the duties of this office.”