Standards commissioner flagged for ICAC’s ministerial gap

Whoever wins the NSW state election gets to decide who will handle complaints against misbehaving ministers: fellow MPs … the Independent Commission Against Corruption … or something in between. A public service role has been proposed.

Consensus has been building in New South Wales that a non-judicial public servant should be tasked with enforcing MPs and ministers’ codes of conduct, providing an alternative to ICAC’s “nuclear option” when the political class behaves badly.

Last month a second bipartisan report out of parliament recommended a new non-judicial commissioner for standards or parliamentary investigator, backing calls from a range of agencies and NGOs including the clerk of the upper house David Blunt, ICAC and the St James Ethics Centre. This new statutory position would be charged with regulating the conduct and propriety of politicians.

Accountability, integrity, ethics or standards, whatever your preferred antonym for corruption, is becoming a crowded field in NSW. The number of stakeholder agencies has grown with the rising public interest in stamping out rort. ICAC has shed parts of its prevention and education roles to the NSW Public Service Commission, which has taken a strong lead on ethics since its creation a few years ago, and the NSW Audit Office runs guidance on gifts.

Dr Robert Waldersee, executive director of ICAC’s corruption prevention division told The Mandarin they all work effectively as a team: “We don’t want to duplicate the other agencies, we’d rather fit within the system that they make up along with us … to provide an integrated and coordinated approach to oversight of the public sector. We’re not walking all over each other or putting out contradictory guidance.”

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