Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 2345 ..
MR KAINE (continuing):
I was somewhat dismayed that when I announced my intention to table this draft legislation the knee-jerk reaction from the Government, and specifically from the Attorney-General, was that there is no corruption in the ACT. Mr Speaker, I do not know what planet the Attorney-General has been living on, but saying there is no corruption in the ACT is, I submit, as absurd as saying that there is no sin in the ACT. In fact, as I have said previously, on occasions it has been obvious that - as was the experience in other jurisdictions like New South Wales and Queensland - existing statutory resources in the ACT have been insufficient to bring about full disclosure of such disturbing activities. In some cases there has been an unreal expectation that authorities like the Auditor-General or the Ombudsman can and will provide all the answers. Regrettably, the terms of reference for these bodies are not sufficiently wide to cover many probable contingencies. Furthermore, the resources available to them are limited. Thus they are not established to deal with matters that have confronted authorities in other jurisdictions.
In reality, only a powerful independent and extra-judicial body like an anti-corruption commission can properly perform such an essential role. What government can lay claim to legitimacy while real doubt about official capacity to serve the public interest remains? How can the community have confidence in the integrity of government, and that their grievances will be investigated fearlessly and honestly, while there is no powerful investigatory body to which they can appeal? This proposed legislation is simply an initiative to ensure the integrity of public administration and public institutions in the Australian Capital Territory. What could be more destructive of our democratic institution than a situation where the community has a failing confidence in public administrators and agencies that occupy positions of public trust? We must seek to ensure that the credibility of public institutions is maintained and safeguarded, and that community confidence in the integrity of public administration is preserved and justified.
Mr Speaker, my call for the establishment of an ACT ICAC is certainly not a political stunt. It is not intended to be a star chamber or a kangaroo court. It is not to create a body for the purpose of engaging in political witch-hunts. It is to serve the interests of the public. This draft Bill does contain a broad definition of corrupt conduct that includes behaviour that adversely affects, or could adversely affect, the honest and impartial exercise of official duties by any public official or any public authority. However, this proposed legislation also specifies that the conduct must be such as would constitute or involve a criminal offence, a disciplinary offence, or reasonable grounds for terminating the services of a public official. It has extensive application, appropriate to the broad range of the public sector. No-one has been exempted. Ministers, members of the Assembly, the judiciary, the police and the Public Service at large, although I understand there is some question about the applicability of this proposal to the police, would all fall within the jurisdiction of the ACT ICAC. But, in any particular matter, it will not be the commission's function to lay charges or even to allege guilt. The task of the commission will be to use its extraordinary powers to get at the truth and then to report that information to the responsible authorities for any further action.