Finally, Some Concrete Details About the Federal ICAC

It’s wild to think about the fact there was an election less than six months ago. Honestly, it now feels like Anthony Albanese has been in power for around 10,000 years, which, while not the case, would make for a very interesting piece of AO3 fan-fiction.

However, because time flies near the end of the year, it can feel like Labor hasn’t been making any headway on some of its election promises. For instance, you might be wondering if a federal ICAC is still going to be a thing. You may be pondering, “Is the government going to create an independent commission that can investigate alleged corruption? Or will Labor quietly drop this ball?”

Fortunately, we have received some massive updates on this matter this week. So, without any further ado, here’s some info about the government’s proposed federal ICAC.

The Federal ICAC Won’t Be Feeble

According to The Guardian, there’s been some concern the Labor Government wouldn’t be interested in creating an incredibly effective ICAC. Nevertheless, the Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, has tried to shut these concerns down. 

“The commission will have jurisdiction to investigate serious or systemic corruption, and will form a central pillar in the integrity framework of our country,” he stated on September 26. 

“In relation to third parties, the commission will have broad powers to investigate allegations of serious or systemic corruption of or by a public official.”

Dreyfus also commented, “The commission will be able to investigate a corruption issue that could involve serious or systemic conduct by any person that could adversely affect the honesty or impartiality of a public official’s conduct.”

Multiple independents were pleased with Dreyfus’ declarations. However, some parliamentarians hope that Labor will now commit to protecting ICAC whistleblowers. 

Related: What Is a Federal ICAC and When Will It Become a Reality?

Related: How Labor’s Next Budget Will Fight the Cost of Living Crisis

Some More Concrete Details

On September 28, Dreyfus provided some additional info about the Government’s proposed ICAC. As per SBS, he stated that it’ll cost $262 million over a four-year period.

Dreyfus additionally outlined more specifically what influence their ICAC would have. “The commission will have a full suite of powers similar to those of a royal commission,” he stated. “It will be able to use its powers to undertake an investigation into a corruption issue.”

What’s more, it’ll also have the power to hold public hearings. However, this will only be under “exceptional circumstances.”

How Does the Coalition Feel About All Of This?

While the Liberal Party couldn’t create an ICAC while they were in power, they have indicated that they’re willing to compromise. The Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, said as much during an interview he did with the ABC

“I support the integrity commission,” declared Dutton. “We’re working with the government in that regard, and I believe that there’ll be a bill that we can support.”

But it’s worth noting that Dutton does have some conditions. As he expressed, “I’m not interested in something which is titillating for the media, but ultimately not good for democracy in this country.”

This specifically means that Dutton doesn’t want public trials. He categorised them as “problematic” and said that “the government concedes that point.”

Nevertheless, on September 28, Dutton slightly changed his tune. After some solid details about the ICAC were released, he said, “the balance is there” and “in relation to the hearings, I think that the government has got that right.”

“There’s the ability for public hearings to take place, where it’s appropriate to do so,” noted Dutton. “There’s the ability for private hearings to take place, where there’s the ability to do so.”

How Have the Smaller Parties Reacted to Labor’s Proposal? 

Some of the smaller factions in the Federal Parliament aren’t thrilled that Labor isn’t gunning for solely public hearings. As Greens’ David Shoebridge said, “One of the best disinfectants for corruption is sunshine.”

“Public hearings are critical to the work of this national anti-corruption commission.”

However, our Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has hit back at this critique. “It will be up to the National Anti-Corruption Commission as to whether hearings are held in private or publicly, he asserted. “And that is best practice.”

Albanese then went on to explain, “There are private hearings across all of the state bodies, including the one I’m familiar with in New South Wales, but in South Australia as well.”

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