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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Integrity package establishes new commission

The ACT Government last week passed a bill which will allow for the formation of an ACT Integrity Commission, as part of the delivery of an ‘Integrity Package’.

Drawing on ‘best practice’ from similar Commissions around the country, the ACT Integrity Commission will cover all politicians, public service workers and government contractors.

The Commission will be operational from 1 July 2019, and will have the ability to investigate matters that have been subject to previous inquiry and matters related to judicial officers.

ACT Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury said the Commission will be realised with “tri-partisan support”.

“The passing of this bill today is a significant achievement. Once the Commission is realised, the people of the ACT can have greater confidence in the integrity, accountability and openness of our politics,” Mr Rattenbury said on Thursday 29 November.

“We have managed to reach agreement on the key components of the bill, and that will put the Commission in a strong position from day one.

“Just over the border in NSW, the ICAC has exposed the revolving door between developers, big business and politics. At the national level, we know that 88% of Australians support establishing a federal anti-corruption watchdog.

“Once the Commission is in place, the people of the ACT can be confident in the integrity of our politics – we’re committed to getting this done,” Minister Rattenbury said.

The Commission will be the first in Australia to introduce a criminal offence for a “failure by mandatory reporters to notify the Commission of serious or systemic corrupt conduct”. The legislation requires mandatory reporting by all senior public servants, MLAs and chief of staff to ministers and the Leader of the Opposition.

The ACT is the last State or Territory in Australia to deliver an anti-corruption commission, with the Commonwealth now the only jurisdiction without one. The Federal Greens’ motion which called on the Morrison Government to establish a federal commission has passed both houses of Federal Parliament.

As part of the integrity package, the ACT Government has also announced a ban on donations from property developers to any political party in the Assembly or any political candidate, with a bill introduced to the Assembly last week.

“Planning and development involve frequent decisions by government that can have enormous consequences for the profits of private land developers,” Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said.

“There is a strong public interest in reducing the capacity for these decisions to be influenced through political donations.”

Any donation made by a property developer will now be required to be repaid to the Territory, to avoid developers making donations before the legislation comes into effect.

The donation ban only covers corporations and developers that make planning applications with the aim of making profit from the sale or lease of residentially or commercially developed land. The ban does not apply to individuals or not-for-profit bodies.

Both the establishment of an anti-corruption commission and a ban on property developer donations were items in the 2016 Labor-Greens Parliamentary Agreement.

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