A key crossbencher in the narrowly divided Federal Parliament has lost faith in the government's promises, citing its failure to establish an integrity commission and MP Andrew Laming reneging over quitting his committee chair role.
Independent MP Helen Haines says Tuesday's budget figures show that the "real truth" was the government had abandoned its promise for an integrity commission, despite a suggestion it was considering a third round of consultation.
Attorney-General Michaelia Cash announced the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity will receive $147.4 million in new funding and an additional 46 staff in preparation for it eventually merging into a future commission encompassing politicians and their staff, the public sector and law enforcement.
However, the 76 expected staff for the new integrity commission no longer appear in the budget papers.
A spokesperson for Senator Cash said the government has already implemented phase one of the merger and is currently considering the feedback on recent consultations before refining the draft legislation.
"The government is committed to delivering the CIC," the spokesperson said.
But that's not how crossbench MP Dr Haines saw the situation.
"We were seeing billions of dollars shovelled out the door in the lead up to the election, and it's more important than ever that we trust the institutions not to spend it corruptly," Dr Haines told The Canberra Times.
"I think the time's up here."
Her own private members bill to establish an integrity commission has enough crossbench supporters to allow it to pass the Senate, but the government's majority has prevented it from being dealt with in the House of Representatives.
The independent MP for Indi says it would only take one person of integrity on the government side to cross the floor to allow debate on an integrity commission.
The government was failing to hold itself to account on "corrupt spending", she said, including sports grants and Leppington Triangle, which was referred to the federal police by Auditor-General Grant Hehir.
"It's no surprise that the government want to go into hiding on this one," Dr Haines added.
"This is a budget where essentially there's around $10 billion, a slush fund for projects that apparently cabinet have signed off on that they'll announce at their leisure, and no accountability mechanism for that - how convenient is that?"
Bill Browne, from the Australia Institute, said it was clear something about the promise has changed since the last budget with the assigned positions shifting from 76 to zero.
The government has shown its hand and is not interested tackling corruption before the next election, he said.
"After numerous promises that a federal integrity commission is coming, it is disappointing to see the government try and pull a fast one via a line item in the budget papers," Mr Browne said.
"Australia Institute research shows 80% of Australians want a robust federal integrity commission. A genuine federal integrity commission with teeth will help prevent a further erosion of trust in our democracy.
"Crucially, an anti-corruption watchdog helps safeguard our democracy by giving the community confidence that the majority are doing the right thing."
MORE BUDGET COVERAGE:
- 'Our duty': $17.7bn plan to fix broken aged care system
- The great debt at the heart of the budget
- 'Giving people the opportunity': Budget boost for first home buyers
- Tax offsets for individuals and businesses continue
- Free preschool for all and $1.7b childcare boost for families
- New Canberra cultural precinct a step closer
- ACT Government broadly welcomes budget
- Peter Martin: Frydenberg spends the budget bounty
- Mark Kenny: Coalition's budget shapeshift is the starkest of our post-war politics
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