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Labor stalwart lashes party powerbrokers

Date

Chris Johnson

Withering ... Senator John Faulkner called for cultural change in the ALP.

Withering ... Senator John Faulkner called for cultural change in the ALP. Photo: Supplied

Labor Party stalwart John Faulkner has delivered a withering indictment of elements inside his own party, saying some members of the ALP lack principles and morals.

His pointed comments were directed at a handful of NSW factional powerbrokers and former state ministers facing corruption allegations.

He noted they were a small minority, but added that a cultural change was needed to prevent a repeat of the ''unedifying spectacle'' being played out at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearings.

''To have integrity, politicians must have the courage to defend their political principles and the strength to uphold their moral convictions,'' Senator Faulkner said.

''Fail either of these two challenges and political integrity is an impossibility… It is time to publicly acknowledge that there have been some in our party's ranks with neither political principles to defend nor moral convictions to uphold.''

The ALP elder statesman has called for those found guilty of corruption to be expelled from the party under a proposed ''one strike and you're out'' policy.

The highly respected senator, whose scathing criticisms will be noted throughout the Labor Party, also called for the urgent adoption of a code of conduct for all federal MPs.

Delivering a speech in Melbourne on Tuesday, Senator Faulkner criticised Parliament's delay in following through on its commitment to introduce the code.

All parties agreed to adopt a code of conduct following the 2010 election, but Senator Faulkner described as unedifying the process that has taken place since then.

Suggestions for the code put up by a House of Representatives committee were rejected by the Senate.

He wants the Parliament to try again and to have a joint select committee look into the matter before the next election ''Federal parliamentarians need to get serious about a code of conduct to apply to them,'' Senator Faulkner said.

''Not because I think parliamentarians are ignorant or uncaring about ethics and integrity matters - generally they are not - but because the public at large is entitled to know that objective standards exist, and that these standards are open to public discussion, and public assessment.''

Senator Faulkner also highlighted the government's delay in introducing modern and comprehensive legislation to protect whistleblowers.

He said courageous whistleblowers were depended upon to alert the public to misconduct, malfeasance and corruption. The government should release its exposure draft legislation for new whistleblower laws, he said.

Senator Faulkner wants to see electoral funding reform, saying large donations could create the perception of undue influence.

He said there was no excuse for any further delays in reducing the level at which political donations must be publicly disclosed - which currently stands at $12,100.

''Transparency around political donations is vital to maintaining public trust in our political system because our electoral processes are a fundamental part of our democracy,'' he said.

And in another critique of his own government, Senator Faulkner said he was disappointed Australia was not a signatory to an international agreement known as the Open Government Partnership.

The initiative was launched in New York last year with the aim of promoting transparency in governments. It currently has 57 member states.

''It is ironic that the largest recipient of Australia's overseas development assistance, Indonesia, is a very active member of the … partnership and currently a co-chair, yet Australia is nowhere to be seen,'' Senator Faulkner said.

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