HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 24 FEBRUARY 2020
That this bill be now read a second time.
It is a pleasure to move this bill today, expanding the reach of the ACT Integrity Commission. The ACT Integrity Commission passed the ACT Assembly in November 2018. It reflects the Barr government's strong commitment to tackling integrity issues within the ACT.
Labor stands for integrity and transparency. We have zero tolerance for corruption. In the ACT, as in the rest of Australia, the public has a right to trust that their public officials can stand up to justified scrutiny. This was a bill which passed the ACT Assembly with support from the ACT Liberals and the ACT Greens. It is vital that the ACT Integrity Commission has the same coverage of bodies in jurisdictions such as Victoria. In Victoria, the Integrity Commission covers the police but, as a result of the way in which policing services are delivered in the ACT, this is not possible within the scope of the ACT Self Government Act as it presently stands.
This bill makes a simple change. It amends the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act so the ACT Integrity Commission is able to cover the police. This ensures that policing services provided in the ACT have the appropriate integrity oversight which territorians would expect to exist. The current body which deals with law enforcement integrity, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, would continue to play a role. We anticipate the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity and the ACT Integrity Commission would form a comprehensive memorandum of understanding on matters such as jurisdictional overlap. They're not prosecutorial bodies. They make findings of corruption and refer matters to their respective jurisdictions' prosecution services, which then make a decision as to whether to prosecute. So it is perfectly appropriate to have those two bodies providing oversight of the ACT's policing services.
This bill is being moved at a time when the Morrison government is on the go-slow on matters of integrity. Labor announced, under the leadership of Bill Shorten, that we would put in place a national integrity commission. We made that announcement in January 2018. It was airily dismissed by the Prime Minister as a ‘fringe issue’ at the time. Finally, after significant public pressure, the Morrison government announced in December 2018 that it would move to establish a Commonwealth integrity commission, and yet the Commonwealth has failed to bring forward legislation that would put in place a national integrity commission. The government talks a big game on integrity but has failed to take the necessary action to put in place a national integrity commission.
At the same time, when asked to support the ACT Integrity Commission in having the same powers as, say, the Victorian integrity commission, the Morrison government is again playing a blocking role. Canberrans support this parliament, and yet it is Canberrans who constantly find that this parliament stands in their way. The Liberals are preventing the ACT Integrity Commission from being able to do what integrity commissions in other areas are able to do.
It's not dissimilar from the case of the 1997 Andrews bill, which prevents the ACT from legislating on euthanasia in a way in which states are able to do. At a time when we see euthanasia laws having passed the Victorian parliament and being considered in other states, it is unconscionable that, more than two decades on, the Andrews bill still prevents the ACT Legislative Assembly from legislating on this issue. That's a view which is held not only by people on my side of the euthanasia debate but also by those who disagree with euthanasia but who believe that territory parliaments should have the same right to debate that question as state parliaments do.
In this case, the bar is not one which has been put in place after self-government. It is one that came with self-government and which was not anticipated at the time. Labor believes that that bar should be removed—that it should be possible to have appropriate anticorruption oversight of the police through the ACT Integrity Commission. I commend the work of the Barr government and I'll now cede the remainder of my time to my seconder in order to add to this important issue.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.