Every time the Attorney General said that a Federal Anti-Corruption Body was on its way
The Australia Institute has today published a timeline which highlights key milestones and moments on the road towards a federal anti-corruption watchdog, including a log of claims from the Attorney General that such legislation was forthcoming.
“A federal anti-corruption watchdog won’t fix democracy but it is a prerequisite to a healthy functioning one,” said Ben Oquist, executive director of the Australia Institute.
“Every time one of these scandals emerges, it builds public pressure for a federal anti-corruption watchdog but conversely, it makes a Federal Government more wary of having one.
“A federal integrity body doesn’t just work to weed out the bad apples, but crucially, helps protect the vast majority of politicians who do the right thing. An anti-corruption watchdog helps safeguard our democracy by giving the community confidence that the majority are doing the right thing.
“If the Commonwealth Integrity Commission legislation was ‘ready to go’ before the pandemic, the Attorney General could have chosen to release it as an exposure draft for public consultation. There are certainly many critics of the current model, but whatever your view, having a good debate on the model and the finer details certainly has merit even if the Parliament is running out of time to legislate,” Mr Oquist said.
The Australia Institute’s National Integrity Committee of former judges has designed a blueprint of design principles to advise policymakers on the best model for a federal anti-corruption watchdog.
National Integrity Committee Timeline
31 March 2016 — Media release
Australia Institute releases its first poll showing that most Australians (65%) support a national anti-corruption body.
14 January 2017 — Open letter
41 prominent Australians sign an Australia Institute open letter calling for a national anti-corruption body.
8 February 2017 — Parliament
Senate Select Committee on a National Integrity Commission forms.
17 August 2017 — Conference
The Australia Institute holds the Accountability & The Law conference at Parliament House, including the case for a federal anti-corruption commission.
13 September 2017 — Committee inquiry
Senate Select Committee on a National Integrity Commission releases its report, and ceases to exist. The report recommends that the government give careful consideration to establishing a broad integrity and corruption Commonwealth agency. Greens dissenting report recommends government begin work immediately on a national integrity commission. Additional comments from Nick Xenophon Team and Senator Hinch also make the case for a national integrity commission.
October 2017 — Media release
The National Integrity Committee forms under the auspices of The Australia Institute.
27 November 2017 — ABCTV 7:30 report
National Integrity Committee releases its principles for designing a national integrity commission, its first piece of work. The National Integrity Committee featured in a 7:30 report earlier that month.
17 January 2018 — Media release
The Australia Institute runs its first TV ads on this issue.
30 January 2018 — Press conference
Labor announces it will implement a national integrity commission if it is elected. Turnbull does not rule out the proposal.
January 2018 — Press conference (Dec 2018)
In December 2018, the Coalition Government says that January 2018 is when they “began carefully considering options for a national anti-corruption body”.
The National Integrity Committee meets with Attorney-General Christian Porter.
March 2018 — News story
Attorney-General Christian Porter says the Coalition is considering “detailed models” for a national anti-corruption body.
9 April 2018 — Media release
The National Integrity Committee releases its blueprint analysis for a national integrity commission.
The National Integrity Committee meets with Attorney-General Christian Porter for a second time.
June–August 2018 — News story
In the aftermath of the Turnbull leadership spill, it emerges that a detailed cabinet submission on national anti-corruption body had been prepared in June and was due to be considered by federal cabinet until derailed by leadership challenge.
28 September 2018 — Media release
National Integrity Committee releases their implementation plan for a national integrity commission.
November 2018 — Parliament
House of Representatives passes Senate motion calling for national integrity commission; for tactical reasons, the Coalition does not vote against the motion.
25 November 2018 — Open letter
Open letter from 34 former judges and National Integrity Committee calls for a national integrity commission to be legislated.
26 November 2018 — Parliament
Cathy McGowan’s National Integrity Commission bill is introduced. Bills from Greens and Centre Alliance are introduced later.
13 December 2018 — Govt media release
Australian Government “will establish a Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC) to strengthen integrity arrangements across the federal public sector.” Consultation paper released.
18 December 2018 — Govt media release
Panel of experts to advise on CIC legislation announced.
23 January 2019 — Media release
National Integrity Committee identifies the necessary powers for an effective national integrity commission.
1 February 2019 — Media release
Submissions close for government consultation paper. Panel of experts expected to have completed its advice to government.
4 April 2019 — Budget
2019–20 Budget allocates $104 million over four years to establish CIC and $2.2 million for ACLEI to be reformed as division of CIC.
3 May 2019 — News story
Labor say they will legislate an integrity commission within 12 months if elected.
26 May 2019 — Govt media release
Porter identifies the integrity commission as having progressed to now having “an implementation focus”, and identifies it as one of several “priority” reforms “which I will be working to achieve early in the 46th Parliament”
(note his greatest priority was given as family law court restructuring).
31 July 2019 — Press conference
Following the Crown Casino allegations, the National Integrity Committee and federal crossbenchers call for a national integrity commission “with teeth”.
1 August 2019 — Parliament
On a Labor motion calling on the government to establish an integrity commission, Porter tells Parliament that
“It’ll be done a lot quicker than the promise those opposite made as to when they would do it; it’ll be a lot quicker than the 12 months that they promised.”
It’s not clear if Porter means the legislation will be introduced within 12 months or the commission will exist within 12 months, but the context is that the Labor Opposition promised an integrity commission within 12 months of being elected.
9 September 2019 — Parliament
Senate passes bill that would establish an integrity commission. The bill will not pass the House.
11 September 2019 — Govt statement (news story); parliament
“I am finalising a draft bill to form the basis of public consultation and expect to finalise a bill by the end of the year”,
mirroring his statement in parliament:
“As to the question of when, I expect that we will have a full draft out for public consultation in the not-too-distant future. I’d expect that that would be before the end of the year.”
“The shadow Attorney-General and I will have a great deal of work to do together over the coming months on this body”
Earlier that week, the Senate passed a motion calling for an integrity commission with stronger powers than the proposed CIC.
21 November 2019[xxvii] — O’Brien: Statement (news story); Karvelas: ABC News 24
Nationals MP Llew O’Brien says he has “serious concerns” about government’s CIC proposal being too weak, and may cross the floor.
The Guardian says the legislation is expected “in the coming weeks”.
Porter will release the draft legislation “shortly”.
Karvelas: “What does shortly mean? What sort of time frame?”
Porter: “I’m sure you’d love an exact date … It will be shortly”.
17 January 2020 — News story
Porter says the national integrity commission will “take as long as necessary” because of the need for “extensive consultation”. Since it is the holiday period, “I have decided to release the full 300-plus pages of the draft early in the new year”.
3 March 2020 — Senate Estimates
Public servants confirm they have presented multiple versions of the exposure draft to the Attorney-General in a “continuous process of refining”.
22 May 2020 — News story
Porter says that the draft legislation “was ready for release” but derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Does not commit to a timeline, instead saying it will be released “at an appropriate time”.
16 June 2020 — AG doorstop
Porter says he will “restart” talks to “test” the views of crossbenchers who think the CIC as planned would be too weak. Will not commit to setting up CIC in this term. He says “the first time I’ve looked at that legislation since this pandemic hit was actually last week.”
Crossbenchers call for a national integrity commission “with teeth”.
24 August 2020 — Media release
Transparency International calls for strong, fit-for-purpose national integrity commission.
31 August 2020 — Media release
Crossbenchers meet with Attorney-General Christian Porter. Helen Haines reports following the meeting that “The timeline for the government bill remains unclear”.
1 September 2020 — Parliament; media release
Helen Haines introduces legislation to establish the Australian Federal Integrity Commission. The move is welcomed by other crossbenchers and the National Integrity Committee. Australia Institute polling shows 3 in 4 Australians want a commission this year.
6 October 2020 — Federal Budget
2020–21 Federal Budget includes no extra funding for the CIC. Expected average staffing level for 2020–21 for the CIC is 76.
13 October 2020 — Rennick: Sky News; Porter: news story
Senator Gerard Rennick says “we don’t support a national integrity commission”, a comment he later walks back. Senator Simon Birmingham says COVID-19 is the priority.
Porter says the draft legislation is ready for release but will not release it as there are “more immediate priorities”.
15 October 2020 — Coalition Talking Points
Coalition talking points tell MPs the integrity commission draft legislation will be released “as soon as possible after the more immediate priorities concerning the management of the COVID recovery have been dealt with”.
21 October 2020 — Senate Estimates
Attorney-General’s Department says that an exposure draft for a national integrity commission was sent to Porter in December 2019.