Page 3449 - Week 10 - Thursday, 20 October 2022

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Integrity Commission Amendment Bill 2022 (No 2)

Mr Cain on behalf of Ms Lee, by, leave, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR CAIN (Ginninderra) (3.28): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Today, I present the Integrity Commission Amendment Bill on behalf of Ms Lee. This is a very important piece of legislation. It would begin the process for the ACT Integrity Commission to be recognised under the commonwealth Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. Recognition under the commonwealth act would enable the Integrity Commission to apply for telecommunications interception warrants, and therefore conduct comprehensive investigations in response to allegations of corruption and maladministration.

This is something that the Integrity Commissioner has been calling for since the organisation’s first annual report in 2019-20. The commissioner has also made the same request in subsequent annual reports and Assembly committee hearings. During the recent estimates hearings in August 2022, the commissioner said:

The difficulty is that I have investigations now that I need telecommunication interception powers to conduct properly.

This bill is the first of three steps required to remove this impediment to the commissioner’s ability to conduct investigations. Should this bill pass the Assembly, the next step would be for the Integrity Commission to make a submission to the commonwealth Minister for Home Affairs requesting recognition under the commonwealth act. The final step would be for the commonwealth parliament to amend the commonwealth act to include the ACT Integrity Commission as an eligible authority.

Although there are some steps involved here, this is too important to wait any longer for the ACT government to address this current shortcoming in the integrity legislation. I point out that the law enforcement and integrity bodies of all states and territories of Australia are recognised under the commonwealth act except for Tasmania and us here in the ACT. We in this Assembly must act now on integrity.

This bill would insert a new division into the Integrity Commission Act 2018 comprising four subdivisions. These impose obligations on the Integrity Commissioner, the Inspector of the Integrity Commission and the Speaker per the commonwealth act.

Proposed new subdivision 3.5.4A.1 provides new definitions in line with the commonwealth act and states:

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