The National Integrity Commission

Every Australian has a right to feel confident that their government is open, transparent and free from corruption.

Corruption has no place in Australia – at any level of government – and governments should do everything they can to prevent it.

In recent years there has been a loss of public faith in our Commonwealth institutions.

It’s time to restore that trust, and show that we can do better.

That is why a Shorten Labor Government will establish a National Integrity Commission – a new federal anti-corruption commission tasked with investigating allegations of serious corruption, helping to prevent corruption by supporting high-risk agencies to mitigate against possible corruption, and educating the community about public sector integrity.  

Labor’s National Integrity Commission will help to ensure the highest levels of public administration and restore Australians’ trust in politics and the public sector.  

The problem

Each year Commonwealth public officials, including ministers and public servants, make billions of dollars’ worth of decisions about public expenditure and procurement.

Yet many of these decisions are not subjected to proper scrutiny and oversight.

Currently, there is no single, broad based body with sufficient jurisdiction to investigate matters of serious or systemic corruption at a federal level. Our ‘multi-agency’ framework for dealing with corruption is fragmented, confusing and poorly understood. 

While Australia currently ranks 13th of 176 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, over the last six years Australia has dropped six places.

In January 2018, a survey of federal public servants by the Australian Public Service Commission revealed that five per cent of respondents said they had seen misconduct, with cronyism and nepotism the most common charge.

While corruption has not become a major problem in Australian political life – Labor wants to ensure that it never does.

Already, every state and territory has now established, or is in the process of establishing, anti-corruption bodies.

It’s time we held our commonwealth public officials to the same standard, and created a single, broad-based body to prevent corruption.

Labor’s solution

A Shorten Labor Government will establish a National Integrity Commission, to investigate allegations of serious corruption and restore the public’s trust in politics and the public service.

The National Integrity Commission will be based upon the following seven design principles:

  • The Commission will operate as independent statutory body, with sufficient resources to ensure it is able to carry out its functions regardless of the government of the day.
  • The Commission would be constituted by one Commissioner and two Deputy Commissioners, each of whom would serve for a single, fixed, five-year term.
  • The Commission will have sufficiently broad jurisdiction and freedom of action to operate as a standing Royal Commission into serious and systemic corruption by Commonwealth parliamentarians or their staff, public servants, statutory office holders, the Commonwealth judiciary and the Governor-General.
  • The Commission will be granted the investigative powers of a Royal Commission, including search and surveillance powers, the power to compel witnesses and subpoena documents and carry out its own investigations, with warrant oversight by the Federal Court.
  • While the presumption will be that hearings will be held in private, the Commission will have discretion to hold hearings in public where it determines it is in the public interest to do so. Labor will continue to consult on the appropriate threshold for such hearings.
  • The Commission will only be empowered to make findings of fact. Any findings that could constitute criminal conduct would be referred to the AFP or Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions.
  • A Bipartisan Joint Standing Committee of the Parliament will be established to oversee the Commission and will be empowered to require the Commission to provide information about its work. That Committee will be responsible for appointing the Commissioners. The Commission will also report to Parliament on its performance annually.

In government, Labor will continue to consult with experts on the design details of the Commission.

Legislation to establish the National Integrity Commission will be introduced into parliament within the first 12 months of a Shorten Labor Government.

This will allow the National Integrity Commission to draw from the best experience and lessons of state based anti-corruption agencies.

The Commission will not just investigate suspected matters of serious corruption, but will also play an educative role, to help prevent serious corruption problems from developing in the first place.

Labor has spent more than a year reviewing Australia’s anti-corruption framework, consulting with experts, and considering the need for a National Integrity Commission. We have drawn on the important work of the Senate Committee into a National Integrity Taskforce, and believe now is the time to take action.

The National Integrity Commission will improve the integrity of politics and the public service. It should be above politics and agreed by all parties.

Labor is ready to join with the Liberals and other interested parties to begin work on a National Integrity Commission straight away.

Financial Implications

The financial implications of establishing a National Integrity Commission has been costed by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office at $58.7 million over the forward estimates.  The final costs of the National Integrity Commission will be determined when the specific design work is undertaken, following a consultation process.