Commonwealth Integrity Commission draft Bill released

By Matthew Elmas

Monday November 2, 2020

Christian Porter
Industry, science and technology minister Christian Porter. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Attorney General Christian Porter has released draft legislation for the proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC), 12 months after first receiving a copy of the Bill.

The Morrison government will now consult on the 363-page exposure draft until March, 2021, clearing the way for a federal integrity body to be potentially included in the next federal budget.

As previously flagged, the government plans to implement the CIC through an expansion and ultimate subsumption of the Australian Commonwealth Law Enforcement Integrity Commission (ACLEI), alongside a separate piece of legislation that will outline coverage over the remainder of the public sector.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said the public sector and law enforcement divisions of the proposed CIC will operate as an “umbrella and centralised agency” that will complement 11 existing commonwealth accountability bodies, while avoiding duplication of duties and referrals.

While the law enforcement division will have discretion to hold public hearings, the public sector arm will instead create private briefs of evidence that could then be refereed to the director of public prosecutions.

“We do not consider that a body with this type of power should be having at its discretion the ability to hold public hearings that’s the government’s position,” Porter said on Monday.

“… It is a fair and reasonable thing to note that the public part of the process will be in a court, once the public sector division has used powers greater than a Royal Commission to investigate anything it considers evidence of reasonable suspicion of corruption.”

The public sector division won’t be able to initiate its own investigations outright and will instead rely on referrals from existing commonwealth agencies and self-referrals from parliamentarians.

Additionally, draft legislation proposing new corruption expenses in the Criminal Code Act has also been released, in a move the government says will ensure the commission can “comprehensively investigate” criminally corrupt conduct:

  • Repeated public sector corruption;
  • Concealing public sector corruption;
  • Public disclosure of false or misleading allegations; and
  • Diverting resources of investigative bodies with false or misleading allegations and with an intention to cause detriment.

Porter said the government is seeking to improve existing commonwealth integrity arrangements rather than pursue an overhaul.

“The government’s view is that machinery that has long existed and successfully existed being a multi-agency approach can be improved with that sort of model,” he said.

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