What will it take for the major political parties to finally acquiesce to the establishment of an independent federal anti-corruption body?
The latest excuse for the government's long delay in unveiling its proposed national anti-corruption commission is that its members can't walk and chew gum at the same time. They are so busy signing off on the highest levels of public spending ever seen in this country they don't have time to put in place a mechanism to ensure the billions of dollars finish up where they were meant to go. Really?
And its not just this government. Both the Coalition and the ALP have steadfastly refused to act when in government despite repeated opportunities over many years. While individual MPs are happy to talk the talk, especially when in opposition, when push comes to shove - as it did last year when a Greens bill for a federal anti-corruption body was passed in the Senate - nobody walks the walk. Labor was not unduly perturbed when the government used its lower house majority to stop the bill being put to a vote.
Labor and the Coalition had both previously voted against similar Greens bills in the Senate in 2009, 2016, 2017, and 2018. A private members bill, moved on Monday by Indi independent Dr Helen Haines, calling for an Australian federal integrity commission will almost certainly meet a similar fate.
Last year's motion from the Greens was particularly timely in view of the almost indecent haste with which former Liberal ministers, Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop, took jobs in the private sector in their areas of knowledge after retiring from Parliament.
Dr Haines's bill is arguably even more relevant given recent developments in the NSW ICAC, at ASIC, the Australia Post watch scandal, and, most importantly, the questionable way in which the purchase of the so-called "Leppington Triangle" was handled by the Department of Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure.
While, as yet, there have been no specific allegations of corruption or malfeasance the transaction is widely regarded as ill-considered and unusual.
Despite this the PM is more agitated about the gifting of $20,000 worth of watches to Australia Post executives who reportedly pulled off the deal of the century with three of the big four banks and "saved the licensed post office network".
That said, both Leppington and the timely bonuses make for a very bad look at a time when many Australians are doing it hard.
That is also the case with the revelations unearthed by the ANAO during a recent review of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. ASIC apparently paid $118,000 for personal tax advice for the chairman, James Shipton, who has now stood aside and whose future is apparently hanging by a thread. His deputy, Daniel Crennan, who resigned on Monday, had apparently received an "excessive" $70,000 in expenses.
While it is important to note no specific allegations of impropriety have been levelled against either man, and both have said they will repay the money, this is a horrible look for the nation's leading corporate watchdog.
A review by a formally constituted federal ICAC, or its equivalent, could go a long way to determining what happened and what should be done to make sure it didn't happen again.
Australians could be waiting a long time, however. The major parties have seen the havoc wrought by the NSW ICAC, which has claimed two premiers and is putting a third under intense pressure. They are in no rush to subject their own to that degree of scrutiny.
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