Prime Minister Scott Morrison must deliver on the promise of a federal ICAC

That Herald‘s Resolve Political Monitor this week found that 54 percent of respondents still liked and respected Ms. Berejiklian after her appearance at ICAC, and 43 percent thought she should not have resigned.

However, Morrison’s attack on the ICAC, a body headed by former judges appointed by Mrs Berejiklian, was premature, ill-informed and politically misguided.

He distorted and downplayed the ICAC investigation. Although there is no evidence that Ms Berejiklian took money for herself, ICAC looks at whether Ms Berejiklian’s conduct was a breach of public trust or a dishonest partial exercise of her functions, and whether she encouraged or allowed corruption by to refrain from telling ICAC about Maguire’s activities.

As former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Whealy noted, much is said about Mr Morrison’s understanding of integrity in public life that he is opposed to investigating these potential serious breaches of ministerial standards. In any case, until the ICAC has made its findings, it is far too early to pass judgment.

Sir. Morrison’s comments were also a quarrel about the current head of NSW ICAC Peter Hall and Ruth McColl, who are handling the investigation.

They are both former senior judges, and Mr Hall was appointed by Mrs Berejiklian herself. To suggest that these two respected legal entities are part of a political hit job without evidence is derogatory and cowardly and undermines belief in the judiciary.

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If Mr Morrison believes there is a political advantage in discarding their reputation, he is misled. ICAC remains a trusted body. The Resolve survey showed that 47 percent of the population agreed that ICAC was doing an important job and should not have reduced its powers. Only 19 percent disagreed.

Sir. Morrison should stop these distractions and present a bill to Parliament to set up a Federal Integrity Commission with real investigative powers similar to those of the NSW ICAC.

It must go beyond the plans for such a body, which the government has so far put up for discussion. They would only create a toothless tiger, which, according to the Center for Public Integrity, would have less power than any of the anti-corruption agencies in the state jurisdiction. According to the government’s current proposal, the Danish Integrity Agency’s investigations will be kept secret, with no results found in most cases. It would lack the power to investigate behaviors that influence impartial decision-making.

If NSW ICAC had been set up on that basis, it would not have had the power to expose the $ 60 million coal conspiracy for which former ALP current broker Eddie Obeid is now in jail.

Sir. Morrison’s refusal to honor his obligation to set up an integrity commission only reinforces the suspicion of what his government is trying to hide. It’s time for a federal ICAC.

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