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Stephen Charles

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Former judge Stephen Charles slams government’s integrity commission model

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Former judge Stephen Charles slams government’s integrity commission model.

After Gladys Berejiklian’s resignation over an investigation by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), the debate about the federal government’s proposed – but weak – federal integrity commission is heating up.

Stephen Charles, a former Victorian judge who is a director of the Centre for Public Integrity, says the Coalition should totally rework its draft model to give it real teeth in dealing with politicians and public servants.

Pointing out that under the government draft, investigations of politicians wouldn’t have public hearings, Charles asks, “What does that show you about the concern they have of their activities being exposed? And […] remember the hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars that this coalition has shown it is prepared to spend […] to its electoral advantage rather than in the interests of the public.”

“Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Article 36 of that convention requires Australia to have an effective body to deal with corruption, and those of us who’ve been arguing for a national integrity body have been pointing to Australia’s failure to comply with its obligations under UNCAC for a long time now.”

Charles agrees with the need to prevent the integrity commission being used by political players for their own purposes. “These powers must not be allowed to be weaponised by […] the political party in power at the time.”

“The body should be under the control of the judicial system, which in this case would mean under the control of the federal court […] there should be an inspector, and next there should be a parliamentary committee which should have its activities under continual review.” With those protections, misuse could be prevented, Charles says.

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