Don Chipp left the Liberals in 1977 to help create a new party, the Democrats, and famously promised to “keep the bastards honest.”
It worked for a period, but the passing years seem to have taken the gloss from the statement.
Many things have changed since then. None more so than the political environment which has found itself in a swamp of lies.
Prior to the last election many Labor supporters, including myself, had been tossing about ideas for Labor to include in their campaign.
By far, the most popular policy suggestions were to advocate for a National ICAC or something similar.
Then as if on cue Bill Shorten started to advocate for an inquiry into the viability of such a commission.
”Bill Shorten supports an anti-corruption commission,” read the headlines.
Shorten was unequivocally robust in his support, saying that any reform needed to go beyond an independent parliamentary expenses system.
He supported “an open and honest discussion” about whether Australia should have a federal Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC).
“For me, reform doesn’t just stop at parliamentarians’ expenses,” he said.
“It must include greater transparency, greater accountability on political donations – and no discussion about electoral reform and rebuilding the confidence of Australians in the political process can take place without having an open and honest discussion about a federal ICAC.”
He further stated that:
“Before the last election there was a Senate committee set up to examine the existing capacities of the anti-corruption regime in Australian federal sphere of government.”
He was referring to a Senate Committee that lapsed after the last election. That inquiry received written submissions and held two public inquiries in April 2016, but lapsed before a final report could be handed down. It received little media attention.
Wouldn’t it be good if in our parliament, regardless of ideology, we had politicians whose first interest was the peoples and not their own?
Finally, when the Coalition took office the problem was hand-balled to the newly appointed Attorney General, Christian Porter.
The Coalition had also advocated an anti-corruption body – albeit a watered-down version – with questions being asked behind closed doors with the public having little insight into its enquiries or indeed its results.
With trust in politicians at an all-time low, there is genuine, overwhelming public support for some sort of ICAC with teeth.
So the question arises as to what stage has Christian Porter carried the proposed legislation forward?
Well, let me bring you up to date.
In September of 2019, Porter said that the proposed draft legislation was near completion.
It is now 2020, and over a year since the Coalition promised its formula for a federal integrity commission legislation.
It had promised to have it done and dusted by last December, but strangely, more than a few scandals seem to have gotten in their way.
That aside, Labor is rightly more than a little upset.
“Continuous scandals showed the government wasn’t interested in integrity, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said.
“Despite overwhelming public support for a national integrity commission the government had to be dragged kicking and screaming all the way,” he said.
Albanese pointed to comments Porter made in parliament in September, when he said a draft was “well advanced.”
In the meantime. critics have rubbished the draft:
“It would create two divisions, a law enforcement division and a public sector integrity division.”
“It would have the power to conduct public hearings in its law enforcement division, but the public sector integrity division will not have the power to make public findings of corruption.”
It is fair to say that the people have been screaming out for some sort of means of checking on the integrity of their politicians for some years. Or was it the time that they happened to notice that they weren’t as lily-white as they first thought?
Now that politicians on all sides of the divide have agreed to an integrity commission the battle has turned to getting one that has enough teeth to bite those who might or have been led astray.
The National Party’s Bridget McKenzie’s allocation of funds to sporting clubs is exactly the sort of scandal that an independent integrity commission would investigate, yet here we have a Liberal Attorney General who is responsible for pulling it all together; seemingly doing his utmost to delay and delay.
The scandals surrounding the practices of Energy Minister Angus Taylor should also be investigated, regardless of the AFPs decision not to take matters any further.
Instead, the Prime Minister, in the case of McKenzie, decided to have his department head take a look at it.
His findings wouldn’t pass a pub test anywhere in the world and to say that she was only guilty of not confessing to joining a gun club was nothing more than contemptible bullshit.
Where is the integrity, the transparency?
Is it any wonder that 32 retired judges from around Australia recently came together to speak as one?
“In an open letter published in the media, they used their considerable expertise in the corruption-integrity area to clearly state why Australia needs such a body at the federal level. They did not put forward a suggested model, deciding instead to try to have the issue placed firmly on the political agenda. Their approach has been successful.”
Well, in so much as we have some construct of an agenda for a commission and an objectionable draft. What we don’t have is a minister with the will and desire to get his legislation passed in the parliament.
The way we are governed has been in serious decline since Tony Abbott took power in 2013.
It has happened at a time in our history when we need an astuteness of leadership – that is seemingly beyond the current crop of politicians.
Never in our history, in the time in which we live, have the consequences of bad governance been more profound.
Getting any sort of reform, given the government is capable of drawing up the legislation, seems to get stalled in a philosophical vacuum that never gets emptied.
There was a time when the major parties could at least work together for some common goals but now even those ideals seem to have lost their appeal.
My Thought For The Day
If we are to save our democracy we might begin by asking that at the very least our politicians should be transparent and tell the truth”.
While our political system has always been adversarial, we used to be better at working together for common goals.
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