Victoria considers, rejects parliamentary integrity commissioner

By David Donaldson

February 5, 2016

The Victorian government considered and rejected a proposal for a parliamentary integrity commissioner, according to a government leak.

The pitch, made by Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings, was considered but not adopted by cabinet.

It aimed to “improve the integrity and accountability system’s effectiveness ­overseeing MPs, ministers and other public-funded staff”, and would look at parliamentary expenses and the behaviour of MPs, reports the Herald Sun.

The claim comes amid allegations that electorate officers, paid three days per week by Labor and two days by the parliament, were hired to campaign for Labor in the lead-up to the 2014 state election. Parliamentary rules ban electorate officers from political campaigning.

Although the Andrews government has been working to strengthen Victoria’s integrity system as promised before the election, there is a gap in the system when it comes to parliamentary integrity.

According to the documents, there is no “independent body responsible for overseeing and upholding integrity standards in this part of the public sector”.

Despite the range of integrity agencies in Victoria, there are issues of jurisdiction. The papers said:

“Except in limited circumstances, there is no (separate) body that could address behaviour that does not meet the definition of corrupt conduct or that the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission declines to ­investigate as the behaviour is not sufficiently serious.”

The confusion has prompted Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass to apply to the Supreme Court to rule on whether she has jurisdiction to investigate the matter. Police are also looking into it.

Government spokesman Chris Piper told the Herald Sun Labor had “introduced significant reforms to IBAC, the Auditor-General and the Ombudsman, which will ensure the public sector and Parliament retain the highest standards of conduct”:

“We continue to look at ways to improve the system.”

Last week the Victorian government responded to criticisms its proposed reforms of the state’s anti-corruption body will leave IBAC “much weaker than NSW’s ICAC”, arguing it is trying to reach “balance” and “avoid the problems” experienced by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

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