November 26, 2018 13:04:46
The Federal Government has signalled it may be prepared to back the establishment of a national anti-corruption commission, but has slammed a model put forward by the bolstered Lower House crossbench as too heavy handed.
Independent MP Cathy McGowan introduced her bill to the House on Monday morning, claiming the Coalition could no longer oppose an integrity commission.
Labor, the Greens and minor parties have long campaigned for a corruption watchdog, arguing current systems are woefully inadequate.
It is the first day the Morrison Government has had to navigate Parliament without a majority, following the swearing in of new Independent MP for Wentworth Kerryn Phelps.
Ms McGowan’s bill follows a motion from the Senate earlier in the month, calling on parliament to formally support an anti-corruption commission.
Attorney-General Christian Porter said the matter needed “sober and cautious consideration” before an appropriate model could be put forward.
“The question about how any government or any parliament might improve the integrity framework at a federal level is a live question and one that should be under constant review and there are very potential paths forward that can mean for real improvement in that area,” Mr Porter told the House.
“This requires time and effort.”
In a wide ranging critique, Mr Porter argued even journalists could be found guilty of corruption under the model proposed by Ms McGowan.
He cited a ruling by the communications watchdog, ACMA, that the ABC’s political editor Andrew Probyn had failed to be impartial in his description of former prime minister Tony Abbott.
“Under this bill before the House, no ifs, ands, or buts, Andrew Probyn would be found to have committed corruption,” he claimed.
“Any ABC journalist or SBS journalist, as a public servant and public official, who criticised the government in a way that … breached a code of conduct, that was perhaps found to have committed contempt or defamation and attracted a civil penalty, under this bill … [would be subject to] a finding of corrupt conduct.”
Ms McGowan responded saying she was prepared to work with the Coalition to find an agreeable proposal.
“From the bottom of my heart I hope the government will come back and tell us this week,” she said.
“Most of your backbench seems to be in favour of it.”
November 26, 2018 12:39:36