Greens’ Integrity Bill lacks integrity
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Greens’ Integrity Bill lacks integrity

September 10, 2019

Thank you Senator Watt. Senator Roberts. -Thank you Madam Acting Deputy President. As a servant of the people of Queensland and
Australia, I want to support the intent behind an ICAC. But I want to go into the matter of accountability,
because the people of Australia do not hold Parliament, Federal Parliament with high regard when it
comes to the matter of accountability. It’s something I realised before entering
parliament, having had to deal with people from both sides of parliament in the upper
house and the lower house—accountability is low, in many places, nonexistent, and
the people laugh at this building, at the people in this building. In my first speech, I mentioned that accountability
is one of my areas to improve in this parliament. It’s something that Senator Pauline Hanson
has repeatedly stated—accountability, accountability, accountability. We see Labor in Queensland, Labor in New South
Wales, Labor in Ipswich, Labor in many shire councils in Queensland and the Liberal Party
in many, in some councils in Queensland. We see Chinese donations. We don’t get answers. Last week and the week before, I was involved
with a committee of inquiry looking at the post-retirement incomes of former ministers
Bishop and Pyne. I interviewed, or questioned, the most senior
bureaucrat in this country, who retired just a few hours later—Dr Martin Parkinson. After talking to us about the investigation
he had done on behalf of the Prime Minister, repeatedly mentioning the word ‘investigation’,
he admitted under my line of questioning that he has no investigation powers. The undertaking that ministers give to the
Prime Minister on being appointed is simply an undertaking—unenforceable and uninvestigable. Accountability is low. I have seen it firsthand myself. That’s why this building, in my opinion, is
often the most damaging building in the country. It’s because it has so much power over the
people of Australia and doesn’t work for the people of Australia. I mention energy, immigration, taxation, multinationals
not being taxed, the theft of property rights—these are fundamental, basic things that are being
ignored, blown away, by the people in this parliament. We must get rid of corrupt politicians and
bureaucrats. I’ll say it again: we must get rid of corrupt
politicians and bureaucrats. We see something is needed. Should it be internal? Should it be a matter of, as Ms Bishop stated
last week, holding ministers accountable under legislation so they can be held accountable
after they retire? Well, that’s one way of doing it, and I would
prefer to see something like that. But, having had introductory talks on that
matter, it becomes difficult to do that. So that leaves us, then, with an external
body that would be free of politics, would be legal and would be tight. That’s what the people of Australia want—free
of politics, legal and tight. My concern is there though, that parliament
could be used as a shield. But we see some instances of success
with this in the state bodies, so it’s worth exploring. I want to compliment the Greens for raising
this. There you are, people of Australia; I’ve actually
complimented the Greens! It’s not the first time. We will always compliment the Greens and work
with the Greens when they come up with a sensible idea. Clearly, the people have lost faith in parliament
and they tell us that. They tell One Nation that a lot, and they
want us to do something about it. In fact, we see that parliament itself has
lost faith in itself, because we see request after request, motion after motion requesting inquiries. Parliament has lost faith in itself. So I want to compliment the Greens because
they’re doing more here than just fabricating victims, which they normally do. The real victims of this corruption, of this
abuse of power in this building the real victims are the people of Australia. But, there is a very big ‘but’. In fact, there are 17 ‘buts’, and we put these
questions, fundamental questions to the Greens. We have received answers on some, but these
questions came out of scrutiny by the Bills Committee and review from the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. These are serious questions that people have
asked about this bill, and they have largely gone unanswered, or been
confirmed. So I want to go through those. As I said, the intent behind this, to drive
more accountability in parliament, is sound, but let’s have a look at the execution. The person under investigation is not required
to be informed that they are being investigated. That’s fundamental. That’s a deficiency. The integrity commission is being given the
powers of a royal commission, but it is not a judicial investigation. It does not have the requisite legal staff
to support the powers of a royal commission—another flaw. The commission will have no powers of telecommunications
intercepts, surveillance devices and so on another flaw. Referrals of matters can be made by any person. No framework for specious or political referrals
exists. There are no checks or balances on the referrals. This could be used politically outside the
parliament as well as inside the parliament. Commonwealth heads of government are required
to make referrals to the commission where they believe corrupt conduct has occurred. That’s fine. However, the definition of ‘corrupt conduct’
is so broad this whole section becomes unworkable. It may result in a known incident being buried
in hundreds of specious incidents and claims. Remember, this is not me talking. This is from the reviews by the Scrutiny of
Bills Committee and the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. These are real and serious questions. No. 9—we like this one—is that the commission
has the power to hold public meetings. That seems unpopular, but we think it’s probably
appropriate. No. 11 is that the commissioner appears to
have the power to refuse a person’s right to be represented before them. The Greens actually replied to this one, and
they said, ‘That’s not always the case, but it is in some cases.’ The next question, the commissioner may
order a person arrested and brought before the commission. That arrest does not need to be carried out
by law enforcement—merely authorised persons. Sure, the Australian Federal Police could
do that, but in the instances where it’s not done by the Australian Federal Police it could
undo the process. So that’s questionable, and we need clarification
there. The next one, the bill allows persons
other than police officers to execute search warrants, including powers to force entry
and search in the absence of the suspect. There is no requirement on experience or qualifications
of the commission’s operators. Unless they are experienced, they could be
prone to mistakes, and that could throw out the validity of the whole inquiry—the whole
action. The next one I want to discuss is No. 15,
the reversal of evidentiary burden of proof. The person under investigation has to raise
evidence to disprove their guilt. There is no longer provision of innocence
until proven guilty. The Greens say that people don’t need that
protection. The next one, is that failing to appear
after receiving a summons or failing to produce a document or thing is a strict liability
offence carrying six months in jail. This takes out the ability to first, get sick or
be geographically or financially unable to respond and also to appeal the order to hand
over a document or item. The commissioner may give an extension, but
they’re pretty broad powers. in item 16 raised by the two committees. No. 17—the last one I’ll talk about—is
that members, including staff of the commission, are exempted from civil action from defamation
and a group of civil remedies. They can literally do anything. They can lie or say anything about a person
they wish, and they are good to go. So we are caught here with something that
is of sound intent but complicated and flawed As I said, it has been reviewed by the Scrutiny of Bills Committee and by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. It fundamentally goes against basic tenets of the law in our country. Our conclusion would seem to be that we are caught in between the Greens bill that goes too far and undermines some fundamental principles of law in this country and creates a body that would embarrass the Stasi and, on the other hand, the government’s proposal that investigates and reports in secret and only investigates matters referred to it by the government. Both are not acceptable: poor to the Left; poor to the Right.

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