In Australia the news has all been about dodgy politicians, corrupt union leaders, rorts, frauds and other corrupt behaviour. In each State they have anÂ IndependentÂ Commission Against Corruption, and they are very effective and since being established have been run off their feet dealing with corruption. So much so that there are now valid calls for a Federal Independent Commission Against Corruption.
In New Zealand we have a similarÂ stenchÂ pervading our halls of power now. Winston Peters donations, constant Electoral law breaches by Labour mostly, The Bill Liu case, Philip Field, Kim Dotcom…then there are the dodgy activities and strange financial arrangements of many of our unions.
The only overriding concern I have heard from politicians is how such an organisation could be funded under out tight fiscal constraints…personally I don’t think that we can afford not to have one.:
The debate over allegations of misbehaviour by our federal politicians has an important subtext. Does Australia have the right laws and institutions in place to deal with accusations of corruption, including misuse of travel entitlements and electoral fraud?
Unfortunately, we do not. The lack of a national anti-corruption body means that dishonesty and breaches of public trust by parliamentarians and Commonwealth agencies may never be detected, let alone addressed.
Improving the accountability of our politicians has focused on the idea of a new code of conduct. Such codes usually amount to grand statements about how politicians ought to behave. They are generally unenforceable, except through the actions of other politicians.Advertisement: Story continues below
Although there is no harm in having a code of conduct for the federal Parliament, it is likely to be ineffective.
The federal opposition has understandably been critical of a new code of conduct. What has been surprising is that they have not taken the lead in arguing for stronger mechanisms to oversee the work of parliamentarians and public servants. The running on this has instead been left to the Greens, who late last week reinvigorated their 2010 bill in the federal Parliament to establish Australia’s first national anti-corruption body.
The Greens’ bill would create a national integrity commissioner responsible for preventing and fighting corruption by parliamentarians and in federal agencies. At present, such anti-corruption powers are held nationally by the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, which can examine only bodies such as the Australian Federal Police.