Independent Commission Against Corruption

Sydney Morning Herald

In Australia the news has all been about dodgy politicians, corrupt union leaders, rorts, frauds and other corrupt behaviour. In each State they have an Independent 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 similar stench 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.

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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.


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  • Robert Lee

    I gather Hong Kong (under British rule) was the first country to introduce an ICAC, where it was apparently very successful. There is a very good article about it on Wikipedia (

    Of course if New Zealand really was the least corrupt country in the world I would presume those in power would not object to introducing an ICAC. After all, it would seem that they would have very little to do.

    Personally, based on my experience, I don’t think that will be the case. New Zealand style corruption seems to be of the more subtle kind. I don’t think the overt bribe thing happens too much, but those in power do like to hide behind “plausible deniability”.

    For more than five years I have been dealing with various government agencies who appear to have acted illegally in order to facilitate a Police / CYF cover up. The “Independent” Police Complaints authority don’t have jurisdiction over CYF. The Serious Fraud Office aren’t interested. There seems to be no one left to go to.

    This case would be perfect for an Independent Commission Against Corruption to investigate – presuming that it really did maintain its “Independence” – as the one in Hong Kong appears to have done. This ought not just be another “carpet sweeping” organisation.

    •  Well put Robert 100% agreement. If we don’t actually have a problem why worry about introducing this to prevent it’s happening in the future….

  • TCrwdb

    NZ can’t afford NOT to have one.

  • Apolonia

    We have so much corruption, such an organisation would solve unemployment .

  • Apolonia

    We have so much corruption, such an organisation would solve unemployment .

  • Guest

    In Australia, the pattern has been that within a year or so, the (Labor) state premier who established the ICAC is found guilty of corruption and removed by the very same ICAC they appointed.

    (That’s one of the important powers of an ICAC, it needs to be plenipotentiary, i.e. it has all the powers of parliament behind it, contempt of ICAC is contempt of parliament)

    In NZ, of course, we should get exactly the benefits of an ICAC by simply banning the Labour party & the unions.

  • Robert Lee

    Based on what you say “Guest”, the Australian model sounds perfect. However, I suspect our politicians may be reluctant to do this voluntarily. I suspect they have got rather too accustomed to the unfettered powers of a “Sovereign” Parliament. They have no upper house, constitutional law or an entrenched superior bill of rights to inconvenience them. Too put this into perspective, only New Zealand and United Kingdom Parliaments claim this kind of authority.

    Perhaps the people of New Zealand might like to advance an ICAC into the list of proposed amendments to our “constitutional arrangements”, which our Deputy Prime Minister Bill English is currently looking at. This would seem to me to be a constitutional matter of some importance.

  • Robert Lee

    Apolonia, Well put. I suspect you may be right. In our case the low-level Police / CYF staff must have been supremely confident that their superiors would cover up for them – otherwise they wouldn’t have dared to do what they did. Their confidence has been justified. That indicates to me a systemic problem.

    I wonder how much this problem is directly or indirectly having an influence on the exodus of Kiwi’s to Australia? A simple vote of no confidence expressed by the purchase of a one way ticket to the West Island. When you consider the Police alone are involved with 400,000 (that’s 10% of our population) every year…

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