ACT Integrity Commission a small piece of much larger debate - Transcript, ABC Radio Canberra


SUBJECT: ACT Integrity Commission.

ANNA VIDOT: Andrew Leigh has introduced a Private Member's Bill which would give the ACT Integrity Commission oversight of the Australian Federal Police. Now of course, the fun intricacies of being the capital territory within the Commonwealth means that ACT Policing will not fall under the remit of the new ACT anti-corruption watchdog, in part because they're a branch of the AFP. So to explain why he wants the whole of the AFP included in the ACT remit instead, Member for Fenner Andrew Leigh joins me from Parliament House. Andrew Leigh, what exactly are you seeking to do with this bill?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G’day, Anna. Great to be with you and your listeners. This is a bill which is aimed at ensuring that the ACT Integrity Commission has the same scope of powers as, say, the Victorian Integrity Commission. I think most people when they think about a body which is looking at corruption would imagine that that would cover public servants, politicians and include the police. But because of the way in which the ACT gets its policing services through a contract with the federal government, that's currently not possible under the Self-Government Act. I’d assume that the Morrison Government would have been quite happy to work with the Barr Government in ensuring that they had the integrity commission that the ACT wanted, that had passed the Assembly. But it turns out the Morrison Government doesn't want a full blown integrity commission here in the ACT, so I've needed to move this private member's bill in an attempt to put pressure on the government to do the right thing.

VIDOT: Why is it appropriate for the whole of the AFP to fall under the oversight of an ACT integrity commission?

LEIGH: It wouldn't be the whole of the AFP, Anna. It would just be those AFP officers who are providing services within the ACT. So if you're a federal police officer serving overseas in one of our terrific peacekeeping operations, you'd be covered as is currently the case by the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. But for police officers doing work here in the ACT - I think they do a fabulous job - they would be covered by the ACT Integrity Commission, as would public servants here in the ACT.

VIDOT: You draw a line, Andrew Leigh, between the Victorian example and the possibility of doing this here in the ACT. But it's not the same in New South Wales, I understand, where the New South Wales equivalent ICAC doesn't have jurisdiction over the New South Wales Police Force. Instead that's a separate commission of inquiry. So what's the benefit or why does it matter that this integrity commission here in the ACT does include the policing that goes on here too?

LEIGH: Anna, the Victorian body is a newer one and I think reflects more modern thinking about how an integrity commission ought to operate. I think increasingly the view of most experts in this area is you want to have a body that has broad powers. Let's not forget these are investigatory bodies. They're not bringing charges. They're simply investigating and then if necessary recommending charges to prosecutorial bodies. So the fact that there might be multiple bodies which would look at the same issue wouldn't cause a double jeopardy situation. We'd envisage that if this private member's bill passed that there would be a Memorandum of Understanding between the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity and the ACT Integrity Commission, and that would take care of any issues of overlap. But I'm not sure that it's a reasonable counterargument to this to say ‘well, this there's already enough oversight of corruption and we don't need any more’.

VIDOT: Why is the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity though not enough when it comes to oversight of policing?

LEIGH: I think its focus is rightly on the national stage, and if you're talking about police officers serving a more local role that wouldn't necessarily be the principal focus of the Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. I wouldn't want the Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity to have their focus taken away from what they are working on at the moment, but I'd also want to ensure that, for example, if you had an instance in which corruption was to involve both some public servants and some police officers - thank goodness I've never heard of such a case, but it's not impossible to hypothesize it might come up - then you would want the ACT Integrity Commission to be able to look at the full gamut of corruption.

VIDOT: You're listening to the Member for Fenner Andrew Leigh, who's joining us from Parliament House, moving a private member's bill to get the ACT’s fledgling integrity commission to have oversight over the AFP as it operates within the ACT. Andrew Leigh, have you, do you expect to get any support at all for this bill in the chamber?

LEIGH: Certainly on the Labor side we're strongly supporting this. My colleague Dave Smith seconded the private member's bill, and you'd expect that from Labor given that it was the beginning of 2018 that we pushed for a national integrity commission. We've been asking the government what's happened to their announcement over an integrity commission that they made at the end of 2018 - still no legislation on that. But because this is a private member's bill and the government controls the agenda in the house, it's really up to the Morrison Government to decide whether or not they'll do the right thing by the people of the ACT. I'd love to hear that's the case, but I’m not holding my breath. Too often the ACT has just taken for granted by the Liberals.

VIDOT: When you talk about the promise that is on the table, I think from both sides for a little while now, of a federal integrity commission of some kind, I mean is this given the ACT policing’s role or position rather within the AFP, i that not ultimately the more appropriate place for oversight to be?

LEIGH: I don't think so, Anna, for the same reason that I don't think the Victoria Police would be appropriately overseen by a national integrity commission. They're performing substantively similar work to ACT policing, they're covered by the Victorian anti-corruption body there. The ACT police should be covered by an integrity body here.

VIDOT: So if you are unable to get sort of movement on this in the Federal Parliament, what other avenues are available? Are there any other avenues available to pursue this?

LEIGH: I'll keep on pushing it. It's certainly an issue that I know is important to me and important to many Canberrans. I've never had anyone come up to me at a street stall or one of my community meetings saying ‘we think there ought to be less integrity oversight’. And in fact we know that the issue of integrity in politics and public life is a major topic. You yourself were talking about the standards for politicians, and I think part of raising that is having a national integrity commission. So this is a small piece of a much larger debate. If we want to restore trust in politics, and if we want to raise standards in politics, then we need strong integrity.

VIDOT: Andrew Leigh, thank you very much.

LEIGH: Thank you, Anna.


Authorised by  Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.