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The NACC: Why it is taking so long

Rightly or wrongly, we expected the NACC to progress much faster than it has. After experiencing ten rotten years of scandal upon scandal, the National Anti-Corruption Commission was promoted as the fix-all solution to the problem. Remember the ineffective solutions the then Government came up with. Solutions that would do little about finding corruption but much to protect those politicians guilty of despicable deeds.

Former LNP Prime Minister Morrison quickly shelved or dispensed with those problems dressed in his naked lies. He had no intention of delivering a policy of any sort. At least not one that would throw any light on their collective premeditated guilt-laden consciousness.

In the end, the truth had a victory over all the rottenness of the LNP, some of which will come before the NACC, which brings me to my point.

Why is it taking so long?

The NACC regularly updates its website but keeps the referrals secret. They will only tell who they are investigating when it is in the public interest, like Robodebt for example. Otherwise, there is an FOI process you can go through.


Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has warned his Ministers to only make referrals supported with concrete facts. Even Government Services Minister Bill Shorten was loath to say Stuart Robert should be referred to the NACC. Even though he is convinced otherwise.

You can subscribe to NACC updates here.

How many?

The NACC) provides updates on the number of referrals received since commencing operations on July 1, 2023. And The Guardian reports that:

“At close of business Monday, July 17 2023, the Commission had received 437 referrals. Approximately 12% of the referrals relate to matters well publicised in the media.”

Albanese baited Coalition members

When in opposition, Labor frequently bated the Government with threats, including matters of little consequence in its referrals to the NACC. At the time, they were ahead of themselves because the composition of the proposed authority had yet to be decided. Nor had they won Government.

It was just stirring up a government in its last death throes that had used taxpayers’ money corruptly. The public had grown tired of this cavalier attitude. Albanese consistently reminded Morrison that he and his lying ministers would be the first on the gallows should Labor win the upcoming election.

John Button

That said, one must accept that 437 corruption referrals are astonishing. I recall some years ago when John Button was the Minister for Manufacturing in Bob Hawkes’s first Cabinet. Button possessed a head of silver hair and a voice of a dulcet tone that often accompanied the Sydney Sympathy Orchestra with various readings. Sorry, back to my point.

Button was the Minister responsible for turning around the Australian car industry which at the time was in turmoil. I distinctly remember him commenting in an interview about how long it took and how slowly the wheels of Government turned.

Albanese threatened to not only throw the book at Morrison over the $100 million outlandish “sports rorts” affair, the $660 million in “car park rorts“, and the Leppington Triangle land sale in western Sydney but filed under ‘C’ in his notebook were many other acts of corruption.

An example

An example of how long it takes to conclude corruption matters is that of former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who was found to be “seriously corrupt” by the NSW ICAC. Still, it wasn’t “seriously corrupt” enough to warrant criminal proceedings. Not only was the conclusion unsatisfactory, but also was the length of time it took to arrive at it.

Work to be done

Time is of the essence. With 437 corruption referrals ahead of him, widely respected commissioner Paul Brereton has some work to do. The list was much higher, but it has been whittled down because many referrals need to fit the NACC criteria for investigation.

Even if the Commission only investigated, say 12%, it must look at around 43 referrals of significant corruption. It could take years to get through this list without ever having to report on its progress. In the case of Berejiklian, it took 20 Months.

The Government wants to avoid being seen as creating a NACC that could be labelled a “political weapon“. However, Albanese succumbed to public opinion when in opposition by raising public expectations of why we needed a commission.

Time needed

The Government realises it has a problem. This is why Bill Shorten seeks advice on which agency is best served to pursue matters allegedly undertaken by Stuart Robert.

He has been pursuing Robert for some time about how a Canberra consultancy, Synergy 360, run by friends and associates of Robert, scored hundreds of millions of dollars of government work with departments under Robert’s portfolios.

That the NACC could, in reality, investigate a person and then leave them like a shag on a rock for months or years is inappropriate. Particularly if the person is eventually cleared of any wrongdoing. It also raises issues of procedural fairness.

Other considerations

The considerations (above) are not the only ones. Recent revelations that Public Servant Kathryne Cambell is a friend of new NACC Commissioner Paul Brereton and Governor David Hurley is also a friend of Brereton is alarming. Undoubtedly, the GG and his $18 million gift from Morrison for a Future Leaders Fund would have been referred to the commission for evaluation.

Where is the transparency?

Will the NACC publish a list of all the referrals and the reasons for ongoing investigation? Or will they just lapse into a swamp of decaying accusations and expire because time is against them. Perhaps the only way we will find out who and what was referred is by the referrer disclosing the matter publicly.

The NACC could be a legacy alongside other outstanding Labor achievements in the future, but this will only happen with transparency that matches the reasons for its original intent. And, of course, the swiftness with which it applies justice.

As it stands, NACC will not be bound by timeframes; included in the legislation. Nor is there a provision for progress reports. (They can be requested.) The Government may therefore temper public anticipations over the next year or so.

Melting icebergs

The Conservative party has been fast out of the blocks declaring that the Brittany Higgins settlement would be its priority referral, whilst the Greens party have nominated their top ten, adding that they would just be the tip of the iceberg.

How far back the NACC allows referrals to go may very well decide when the war ends. All participants should recognise when the battle becomes meaningless and is replaced by good governance, which becomes the norm.

My thought for the day

Governments who demand the people’s trust must govern transparently to acquire it.

PS: What happened to the teeth and the transparency?


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  1. Denis Hay

    It seems to me that everything around the NACC is “secret”. I am starting to feel that the NACC will be a toothless tiger.

  2. Stephengb

    I do not believe that the NACC will be effective in sorting out corruption of the previous government. They only need to follow the money but that might be a bit too hard for an institution where the head is actually friends with one those that should be investigated.

    Perhaps the NACC should be investigated for conflict of interest !

  3. New England Cocky

    Why has Gladbags been spared the joys of criminal proceedings? Does that mean that corrupt dealings by politicians are now permitted in Australia?

    Has Scummo been given a ”Get out of jail free” card for his considerable government maladministration and the COVID outbreak fiasco created so that Hill$ong members could get home for lunch?

    When will the gg be indicted for treason against the Australian people for endorsing the Scummo Seven Secret Ministries attempt to form a political dictatorship in Australia?

  4. Terence Mills

    I’d give the NACC a bit of time to look into the referrals before they announce that they have commenced a formal investigation : After all they only came into being on 1 July. The worst outcome for the NACC would be to be considered a kangaroo court.

    As regards Berejiklian she (and the same applies to any politician) would only be subject to criminal proceedings once the corruption bodies have uncovered evidence that could lead to a successful prosecution.

    As Geoffrey Watson QC has noted in respect of ICAC in NSW :

    “The theoretical framework for an anti-corruption body is to go into areas where the police can’t and Icac was established with a power to compel unwilling witnesses to give evidence, something our criminal justice system cannot do. Police cannot compel Berejiklian to provide the same evidence (in court).”

    Dodgy Darrell is an entirely different matter as independent evidence exists of his alleged crimes.

  5. Max Gross

    Way back in prehistoric times – 2019 – Albanese rejected an allegation from the Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie that there is corruption in federal politics. Said Elmo: “I have not seen any evidence of direct corruption … that has been proven in my time when I’ve been in parliament” !!! Weasel words and proviso, duly noted.

  6. New England Cocky

    @Terence Mills: Thank you for your thoughtful comment.
    @Max Gross: Your comments reminds me of the Malcolm Turnbull comment, ”I see no factions in the NSW LIARBRAL Party”. Somebody forgot to tell Scummo et al.

  7. GL

    Grace Tame (December Q&A 2022) on Scummo: “He wasn’t even a good enough villain – he had the ambitions of Voldemort with the brains of Peter Griffin.”

    Can’t top that one.

  8. John Lord

    Your are correct on pulling me up on the time factor. It’t just that in the spirit of openness perhaps a published list, without name, of cases under consideration might have been in order.

  9. B Sullivan

    Your thought for the day,

    “Governments who demand the people’s trust must govern transparently to acquire it.”

    This doesn’t really make sense. If a government is trusted, then it does not require transparency. Trust is permission to act without supervision.

    Governments should recognise that it is wrong to demand the people’s trust. The people are entitled to know what they are up to, and not rely on the ignorance of trust. A democracy must be informed if it is to accept responsibility for the governments that it elects.

    Governments that govern transparently do not need to demand the people’s trust.

  10. John Lord

    B Sullivan. Thanks for your comment. Point taken.

  11. Centrelink customer

    Services Australia bombarded me with debt letters even though their own advice was that I was eligible for a higher rate of welfare benefits. Their internal appeal decision was made by an anonymous delegate or officer, not an authorised review officer (ARO). Can Services Australia or ACOSS confirm Centrelink customers are no longer eligible for a formal review made by ARO?

  12. Centrelink customer

    In the last 12 months Services Australia sent me 2 family Tax Benefit debt notices demanding around $4700 of my Rent Assistance. About 85% of this amount was the Rent Assistance base rate I received as a component of Jobseeker allowance. Services Australia stated that because I was not eligible for a higher rate (with dependent child), I had to return all of my rent assistance including around $4000 (the base rate). But the base rate has nothing to do with care percentage at all.
    None of the debt notices mentioned Rent Assistance. There must be a lot of Centrelink customers affected by the scheme.
    Can Services Australia and ACOSS comment this?

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