Subjects: Criminal Integrity Commission, nuclear energy, US activists
PETA CREDLIN: The New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption, ICAC, it’s a
‘monster’, that’s according to one of my next panellists. Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General
Amanda Stoker, who’s working on the model for a federal anti-corruption body says the broadsweeping powers of the New South Wales ICAC has seen lives destroyed over trivialities. Senator
Stoker joins me now from Brisbane, along with her regular sparring partner, Labor MP Joel
Fitzgibbon who’s coming to us now from Cessnock. Senator Stoker I’ll start with first you if I can, I’ve
said my piece a bit earlier about New South Wales ICAC model and I’m not convinced we need
something at a commonwealth level, given the lack of control Federal MPs and even Ministers have
over money, give me a sense if you can of the model you’re working on, and whether or not it’ll have
some, you know, public hearings for example. Will it be retrospective in any way?
AMANDA STOKER: Peta, you’re quite right to identify that in the federal sphere you don’t have
Ministers with their hands on the till so to speak, and so the risks aren’t the same as you might
expect at state or local government level. It’s also true to say, something that often gets lost in the
debate, that we have about 12 commonwealth agencies that are responsible for integrity and
transparency, so to the extent that we might want to have one of these Commissions, really it’s just
the bringing together of existing agencies rather than a suggestion that we don’t have protections at
all. But what we need to do is make sure we have a system here in the Commonwealth Integrity
Commission that is an effective bulwark against corruption, should it arise, and that it holds people
who engage in such conduct accountable in a meaningful way, but that they do it in a way that
respects the traditions of the criminal justice system so that we aren’t trampling on the rights or the
reputations of individuals to, for instance, know the allegation they have to meet, or to face
evidence of a reasonable standard to justify those kinds of allegations before a finding is made. At
the moment, in the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption, we have a
situation where people’s reputations are trashed over trivialities, we have a situation where people’s
careers are ruined in circumstances where no crime has been committed, in circumstances where
allegations are made that are often set aside by other courts, in circumstances where prosecutors
say, ‘there’s not enough to go from, here’ and throw out the brief. That’s not enoughPETA CREDLIN: Senator can we, quick response. I want to bring in Joel Fitzgibbon but will it be
AMANDA STOKER: Of coursePETA CREDLIN: And will it have public hearings? And public hearings?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, retrospective is, retrospective is a term in the sense that it can mean a
whole bunch of different things, but I think it’s important to note that, even if it were to start from
today onwards, that doesn’t mean there’s a gap in accountability. There’s still a whole lot of
agencies that are watching accountability and transparency right nowPETA CREDLIN: Right.
AMANDA STOKER: In relation to public hearings, the current model provides for them to be done in
private so that reputation tarnishing can’t occur.
PETA CREDLIN: Alright, Joel Fitzgibbon, just on this point more broadly, but also do we need to
reform, I think we do, ICAC New South Wales? What’s your view?
JOEL FITZGIBBON: Of course we do, Peta. Amanda described ICAC as a ‘monster’, I’ve described it as
a ‘kangaroo court’. No rules of evidence, no certainty about ‘what is the benchmark for innocence’
or otherwise, and a body which has trashed the reputation and careers of so many people who have
never been found guilty in our law courts of any wrongdoing whatsoever, and I’m sure there are
three Liberal Premiers who lost their jobs who would agree entirely with what Amanda and I have
been saying tonight. I don’t know whether its possible now to reform something that’s already n
place because, in the eye of the public, it will be seen as a winding back of integrity measures, so it’s
not going to be easy to wind it back. But, you know, the original creator, Nick Greiner, who himself
was the first victim of ICAC, I’m sure would be most supportive of reform but it’s whether the
government of the day can carry that argument in the public marketplace because we can have no
tolerance for corruption in politics or public life but we’ve got to have a fair system in which people
are able to defend themselves, and not have their careers and lives trashed by a mere reference to
what is called, importantly, a corruption body.
PETA CREDLIN: I’ll stay with you if I can. I just had Matt Canavan on the program, we talked about a
poll, a very good, strong poll, it says basically majority support out there for nuclear power, across
the board in this country. I think it’s ridiculous to wait for bipartisanship, but you know, you correct
me if I’m wrong, do you see that Labor could move on the issue of nuclear power in the short term,
short to medium term?
JOEL FITZGIBBON: I believe it’d be very hard, Peta. There would really have to be a groundswell of
community support, and a community campaign. But you know, what do we know about nuclear
generation? Is it safe? Yes. Does it produce baseload power? Yes. Is it emissions zero, emissions
free? Yes. We’re going to put nuclear reactors now in our ports, and would have them navigating up
and down our coastlines on submarines. No one seems to be saying boo about that but, of course,
people are still complaining that they’re not sufficiently safe, or they often invoke other reasons for
not having nuclear generation. I think the only question we don’t know is whether they can be
economical, whether they can compete in the market. Now the people who should be left to
determine that of course, are the investors. So, we need to get rid of this crazy prohibition, so an
investor can test the market, and test community and government sentiment and if they can jump
all the usual hurdles that any other [inaudible] must jump, then why not have it here in Australia?
PETA CREDLIN: Right, let’s go to the United States and disturbing footage has emerged of left-wing
activists accosting a Democratic Senator Sinema in a bathroom over her reluctance to support Joe
Biden’s trillion-dollar Build Back Better legislation. Let’s have a look.
PETA CREDLIN: This more and more, Amanda, is what passes for debate. We not only can’t argue
with each other in a civil manner, we’re now filming things, putting them up on social media, trolling
people. That’s not what democracy is supposed to be like.
AMANDA STOKER: That’s not what democracy is supposed to be like and it’s not how we solve the
challenging policy problems of our time. Civility, the kind that we can, you know – Joel and I –
demonstrate weekly, is the key to working through the big problems the nation faces, not harassing
people in the loo and posting it online.
PETA CREDLIN: Yeah, I think it’s extraordinary, sorry state of affairs. Joel Fitzgibbon and Amanda
Stoker, thank you very much.