Corruption of bureaucrats and the case for a federal ICAC

Corruption doesn’t just happen at the state level. From AWB to Securency and numerous incidents within the Canberra public service, who’s watching the Commonwealth?

Last year Prime Minister Tony Abbott, asked by a reporter if there ought to be a Commonwealth anti-corruption commission, replied “no”, saying he thought Canberra was a “pretty clean polity”. It is possible that not many people agree with him — a Griffith University Centre for Governance and Public Policy survey found the federal government now ranks third behind state and local government on the crucial issue of trust.

In May last year Greens leader Christine Milne introduced in Parliament a bill to create a national anti-corruption body, saying at the outset that “the federal government is the only jurisdiction without the infrastructure to confront corruption”. Milne continued to make a powerful case for the creation of such a body; it’s the third time the Greens have put before the Parliament a bill to “crack down on public sector corruption and promote integrity in our public institutions” by creating such an office. Unsurprisingly, the bill was once again voted down.

The principal argument in favour of a federal anti-corruption commission can be very shortly stated. Corruption occurs when and where money, power and influence are found and persons pursue them in a criminal or improper way. Each state government now has an anti-corruption body because each controls money, power and influence in great quantity.

But by far the largest quantity of each is in the control of the Commonwealth government in Canberra and there is no obvious justification for assuming or asserting that some cleansing wind purifies the air in Canberra and stops abruptly at the outward boundaries of the ACT. In this context it should be noted the federal government each year purchases tens of billions of dollars of goods and services. In and between the years 2006 and 2009, the Defence Department alone spent more than $48 billion. In 2009 there were more than $45.5 billion worth of tenders sought by this department.

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  • Anne Smith

    No one is above the law. If you have nothing to hide, why not be open and free with your business or politics or agendas. There should be an open discussion without any government or ministers hiding behind closed doors.. Also, the word Securency does not exist, according to wikipedia.