“This is public money, held in trust for the nation as a whole, to be spent in the national interest and not for unethical political purposes or illegitimate private gain,” the group writes.
“Where billions must be spent and great power is available to do without with little oversight, greedy people with a convenient conscience and powerful connections will ensure that by manipulating their influence they will gain an advantage illegal or unethical to the detriment of the interests of the general public.
“And they will do so in ways that only a specialized anti-corruption agency will have the skill and power to detect.”
As the ‘teal’ independent candidates campaign on integrity while Labor leader Anthony Albanese pledges a tougher watchdog, the open letter escalates the political dispute over the integrity commission when the Coalition downplayed the importance of the issue in shaping the outcome of the elections on Saturday.
Morrison proposed a Commonwealth Integrity Commission which could hold public hearings for inquiries into police or civil servants, but not politicians. The government’s proposal would not allow the agency to launch its own investigations or act on advice from the public.
Albanese calls for a commission that can hold public hearings, launch its own investigations, act on public advice, issue public findings of corruption, and look back at least 15 years to examine past behavior.
Barker, who was a justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia before his move to the Federal Court, said the open letter was aimed at all political parties to ‘restore integrity and accountability’ to Australia’s political system. .
“A national integrity commission with broad jurisdiction, powerful powers and public hearings is needed to restore trust in our democratic system,” he said.
“Without this, there is a real danger that corruption will grow.”
The letter will be sent Wednesday morning to Morrison, Albanese, Greens leader Adam Bandt and minor party leaders.
The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit group including lawyers and former judges, concluded last year that Morrison’s proposal was too weak, but the new letter reflects a consensus of a much larger group. .
“If left unchecked, corruption corrodes the most precious values of a civilized society,” said former Victoria Court of Appeal judge David Harper, QC, who signed the letter.
“For the retired judges who have added our names to this open letter, protecting the rule of law is so important that a public expression of our support for a national integrity commission dedicated to this end is eminently justified.”
Former Victoria Court of Appeal judge Stephen Charles, QC, director of the Center for Public Integrity, said billions of dollars of public money was wasted on pork barrels.
“The institutions of democracy are being eroded. Important roles in government are given to political friends. And there is no proper review of ministerial decision-making. We must act now to curb corruption in Australia,” he said.
The open letter warns that a political solution to the problem, through elections, media coverage and parliamentary oversight, did not produce real-time consequences when wrongdoing occurred in the past.
“Without the commission we envision, the right of Australians to have their tax dollars used for the maximum national benefit will not always prevail over the corrupt exercise of power,” he says.
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