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National Integrity Commission inches closer to reality

National Integrity Commission inches closer to reality

Parliament house

A Private Members’ Bill introduced today to establish a National Integrity Commission, as well as a Greens motion, have just passed, bringing the reality of a federal watchdog closer, says the Law Council of Australia.

The introduction of the bill and passing of the motion are “extremely positive steps”, LCA said in a statement, while urging the federal government to “get on board with the process”.

LCA president Morry Bailes said it is important that “momentum is maintained” but noted that proper process must be followed to ensure Parliament gets the model right.

“We applaud the work of Cathy McGowan and other crossbench MPs in introducing legislation and driving a successful vote in Parliament today. It is looking ever more likely that the establishment of this crucial federal watchdog is a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’. It is absolutely time that the government joins the table,” he said.

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“We hope comments by the Attorney-General mean the government is preparing to engage. The introduced bill is an important addition to the debate. It will require careful scrutiny to ensure it strikes the appropriate balance between addressing corruption and protecting fundamental rights and freedoms.”

“These include important rights around protecting legal professional privilege and the exercise of coercive powers,” he said.

Corruption is a serious global phenomenon that undermines democratic institutions, jeopardises economic development, and threatens the stability and security of governments, Mr Bailes posited.

“There is a need for addressing federal corruption in Australia. While Australia is generally regarded in a positive light when it comes to corruption, there is still room for improvement,” Mr Bailes said.

"We look forward to continuing to work with the crossbench and the Australian Parliament to get the model right and help make a National Integrity Commission a reality.”

The Law Council noted that it strongly supports the establishment of a National Integrity Commission to combat corruption at the federal level.

The passage of the bill and motion follow the publication of an open letter by 34 former judges urging Prime Minister Scott Morrison to support the creation of a National Integrity Commission.

Click here to listen to Lawyers Weekly's podcast with shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus QC, MP and barrister Fiona McLeod SC about the need to establish a National Integrity Commission. 

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