Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 13 Hansard (29 November) . . Page.. 5170 ..
Yes, we should be reporting systemic corruption and serious corruption. But, given that we have already drawn this line between misconduct and corruption, and misconduct and criminal activities, surely, if the commission say someone is corrupt, they have done their job and they should be reporting as such. What is going to be the line for what is serious and what is just corrupt? "Systemic" is probably going to be easier to define. Is a dodgy deal over a $200,000 purchase serious corruption or not? Compared to a dodgy deal over a $50 million purchase, maybe it is not. Who knows? But it is definitely corrupt, all the same. I do not think we should have this artificial restriction on when the commissioner can and cannot report corruption.
MR BARR (Kurrajong—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Social Inclusion and Equality, Minister for Tourism and Special Events and Minister for Trade, Industry and Investment) (8.16): This provision helps to prevent human rights violations by ensuring that the commission is aimed at addressing and preventing serious corrupt conduct or systemic corrupt conduct. As we have canvassed extensively, the threshold for the integrity commissioner to commence an investigation is so broad that findings made by the commission should be limited to a narrower scope of serious or systemic corrupt conduct. This is in line with New South Wales. The ACT is a human rights jurisdiction and must take into account the potential damage to a person which may have occurred through the investigation stage.
It is important to stress that section 184 does not limit the commission's ability to report on matters that are not found to be serious or systemic corrupt conduct. The commission is still very free to, and I imagine would, comment on these matters. For example, they may choose to describe behaviour as inappropriate, dishonest or untrustworthy, and in this way the public transparency of the process and the outcome are still supported whilst providing adequate protections for individuals.
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (8.18): We will not be supporting this amendment. The bill does allow reports on any topic, but findings should only be made against the threshold that has been defined in the legislation, and that is the threshold that this Assembly has given a focus to the commission on. They can still make all sorts of reports, and will, I think, do so freely and appropriately. With this distinction, this is one of the areas where we are getting into real subtleties. I think the commission will have the right powers that it needs, but there is a legal consideration here, and we are persuaded that this is the right side of the line to fall on.
MR COE (Yerrabi—Leader of the Opposition) (8.18): Of course, the commission does have to consider natural justice, human rights and all other due process considerations. However, this is all dealt with in clause 204. Clause 204 sets out pretty clearly the overarching guidelines that the commissioner must factor in. To raise a specific clause in relation to proposed section 184 means you will then have umpteen points where you are meant to check someone's reputation, as opposed to applying the proper process for coming to findings of fact; then, at the very end, working out what should be published or not. That is what proposed section 204 is for. If you start filtering it before you get to the end, you risk filtering already filtered findings. To that end I do not think you will actually get the best possible outcome that you would expect from a commissioner that we are already giving a lot of discretion to.