Federal Corruption Watchdog Green-Lighted

A federal anti-corruption watchdog has been given the go-ahead, amid a spate of dodgy behaviour by Liberal politicians. The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) will have the power to take on ministers and parliamentarians, essentially functioning as a federal ICAC.

One of Labor’s core election promises was the creation of a federal ICAC, and that promise seems set to come to fruition within the next year. The House of Representatives approved the final NACC bill on Wednesday afternoon.

Key amendments to the bill included giving the inspector the ability to provide real-time auditing. But other crossbench amendments were blocked, including a move to lower the bar to make hearings public, and explicitly include pork barrelling.

David Pocock hailed the decision as a “historic moment for Australian politics”, but criticised moves by major parties to block some amendments.

In their official statement, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus called the moment “a historic day for our parliament, and the nation.” They confirmed NACC will be established midway through 2023.

‘Undermined public confidence’: ScoMo Censured

And this historic day couldn’t have come sooner. Just a day later, former Prime Minister Scott Morrison became Australia’s first leader to be censured by parliament.

The former PM was censured for his secret self-appointments to six ministries during the pandemic. In his defense speech, he essentially blamed his colleagues and the public for his non-disclosure, saying people simply hadn’t asked the right questions.

His censure comes after the conclusion of an inquiry into his behaviour by former high court justice Virginia Bell, which found his appointments to be unnecessary, and destructive to “public confidence in government.”

The motion for his censure passed with the support of the Greens, most of the crossbench (excluding Bob Katter and Dai Le), and a lone Liberal – Bridget Archer.

Archer told the house she did “not accept any of the explanations put forward by the former prime minister for any of his actions, and I’m deeply disappointed by the lack of genuine apology or, more importantly, understanding of the impact of these decisions.” She called on her colleagues to support the censure as an “opportunity for a line to be drawn”, but the remainder of the Coalition chose to close ranks around Scott Morrison.

Libs in Hot Water

Morrison isn’t the only high-profile Liberal who’s been in trouble recently.

Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor has been drawn into a freedom of information dispute with Guardian Australia. A couple of weeks ago, the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water appealed the information commissioner’s order to release documents around an investigation into illegal land-clearing by Jam Land Pty Ltd.

Angus Taylor has interests in Jam Land via a family company. In 2017, Taylor attempted to arrange meetings with senior environment officials, including the office of then-environment minister Josh Frydenberg, regarding laws that protected Monaro grasslands. This was while an investigation was underway into the legality of Jam Land’s actions in the area.

And just this week, federal Liberal MP Stuart Robert was implicated in leaked documents from a consulting company owned by his good friends. The leaked files show Robert kept in regular contact with his friend David Milo and Synergy 360, a consulting company in which Milo is a shareholder.

There’s clear indication that Milo repeatedly provided (paid) access to Robert to clients, including Infosys, an Indian multinational which won several lucrative deals to deliver welfare calculation technology to government agencies.

Robert is denying any dubious behaviour, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

After the Liberals’ embarrassing performance in the Victorian state election, the passing of the NACC is really the cherry on top.

Cover image by JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/) is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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