Adjournment Speech - Corruption and Integrity


Senator STOKER (Queensland—Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General, Assistant Minister for Women and Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations) (12:25): Senator Patrick says he's motivated in bringing this suspension motion by the frustration that the government is running out of time to deliver its Commonwealth Integrity Commission before the end of the year. So, in order to give effect to that frustration, he has decided to attempt to derail the government's legislative program in a game of competitive one-upmanship about who around this chamber most stands against corruption. Well, the reality is that there's nobody in this room saying that corruption is a good thing. There's nobody here who's saying that corruption is the order of the day. Everyone in this place stands against corruption. It's part of the reason this government has engaged in such a detailed consultation process to make sure that we can deliver an institution that has the teeth it needs while learning the lessons of the integrity commissions in other states that have gone horribly awry. Senator Lines: Which states? Senator STOKER: I'll happily tell you that, Senator Lines, in just a moment. But, really, he's frustrated about not getting through the government's program, and so, to do that, he's going to derail getting through the government's program. I mean, can you bear it? Then we moved around the chamber to hear from Senator Gallagher, who was complaining that we have a desire to introduce a bill of this significance with the support of those opposite. Now, every time I go out into the Australian community, they want to see more of the major parties working together to get sensible agreement on matters so fundamental to the institutions of this country that we want them to have an enduring and stable quality. But, no, they want to engage in a game of partisanship, a game of political one-upmanship, instead of just getting the heads around the table and agreeing on what it is possible to do amongst the people in this room. It leads me to say again: can you bear it? The hypocrisy of those around this chamber makes my eyes water. But it's important that, rather than trying to cast slurs on people who serve in this place, under the coward's castle of parliamentary privilege, we instead step back and look at what works in these institutions. If we look to the example of the New South Wales ICAC, we see a long list of great injustices that have been inflicted by a star chamber which itself needs to be held accountable. For those Australians watching and thinking, 'But we do need something to look at corruption at the federal level'—and, of course, it is important that we are stomping out corruption at every opportunity—few Australians realise that, first, we have 12 agencies at the Commonwealth level that deal with corruption. We don't have one or two. We have 12 agencies that are responsible for tracking down and stomping out corruption every day of the week. So, in the time between now and when the Commonwealth Integrity Commission comes into force, these things are not languishing by the wayside; they are being dealt with and they are being addressed. The next thing to say is that we've already taken action to expand the role of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. We've expanded it. We have funded it, and it is already delivering those aspects of the federal government's Commonwealth Integrity Commission bill. It's already happened. It's already funded and it's already being delivered every day of the week. So there are an awful lot of political slogans being chucked around by those opposite, but there's not a lot of connection to reality. Let's have a look at the long list of injustices that can occur when we don't get the design of an integrity commission right, because, can I tell you, the design that has been proposed by those in the Greens and the design proposed in the Haines bill would empower many great injustices of the kind that we have seen in New South Wales. Nick Greiner— Opposition senators interjecting— The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Fawcett): Members on my left, you are given the courtesy of silence when you speak. I'd ask that you extend that to others when they're on their feet. That is how this place works to provide everyone an opportunity to express their views. Senator STOKER: Let me give you an example of the case of Nick Greiner—1992 we're talking about here. This is the man who fought for and established the New South Wales ICAC. This man referred himself to it, such was his belief in it. He was found not to have acted corruptly, not to have acted illegally. They bagged him so much anyway he was forced to resign. (Time expired)