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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 13 Hansard (Thursday, 29 November 2018) . . Page.. 5130 ..

This bill also provides for the covert powers necessary for this integrity commission to be effective in investigating serious and systemic corruption. We also need an agency that can provide an educational role, to prevent corruption from occurring and to improve government processes and policies to reduce the risk of corruption. While the bulk of this bill has nothing to do with the education role of the commission, education is a critical part of the commission’s role and one which I hope the commissioner makes a priority.

The new integrity commission is important to build the community’s trust in government. If members of the public or public officials covered by this bill have a genuine concern about corruption, they will now, with the establishment of the commission, be able to make a complaint to have it investigated. Senior public officials will be obliged to report matters where they suspect on reasonable grounds that they involve serious corrupt conduct or systemic corrupt conduct.

The bill establishes a clear definition of corruption in clause 9 and also ensures that the object of the commission is to focus on serious and systemic corruption. The 2018 select committee recommended that the bill be examined to ensure that it incorporates the full extent of the New South Wales definition of corrupt conduct but maintains the focus on “serious corrupt conduct” and “systemic corrupt conduct”, as reflected in the bill.

As a member of the committee, I know that the intention of this was for the government to do a final check to make sure that the definitions were as similar as possible, given the different drafting style here in the ACT compared with New South Wales, whilst also ensuring that there was a focus on more serious matters.

The government did this check in line with the committee recommendation and I believe that the final bill does reflect the New South Wales definition of corrupt conduct, whilst maintaining the focus on “serious corrupt conduct” and “systemic corrupt conduct”. There was never a so-called “narrowing” of the bill. The government agreed with the recommendation from the committee. In fact it is the opposition’s approach that is out of step with the committee’s recommendation.

As recommended by the 2017 select committee, the definition of corrupt conduct in the bill is based on part 3 of the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988, drafted to reflect ACT legislation. The bill also reflects the select committee’s recommendation that the integrity commission should prioritise investigating serious or systemic corruption.

Very much in line with the committee’s recommendation is that the limitation on the nature of corrupt conduct that New South Wales uses in relation to misconduct and disciplinary issues is not replicated in the bill. There are already existing provisions and oversight mechanisms in place for dealing with misconduct of members of the Legislative Assembly, statutory office holders, ACT public sector employees and third-party contractors, through contracts.

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