Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 2346 ..
MR KAINE (continuing):
The independent commission will have jurisdiction to investigate corrupt conduct occurring before the commencement of the legislation, and I know that that may be of some concern to some. However, in deciding whether or not to investigate a matter, the commission will take into account whether the conduct occurred at too remote a time to justify investigation. Obviously there is no point in committing resources to investigating matters that are too old to be effectively pursued.
The independent commission is not intended to be a purely investigatory body, in the sense that it will also be expected to exercise an educatory role to make public officials and the community more aware of what it means to hold an office of public trust, and more aware of the detrimental effects of corrupt practices. In the long term, it is to be hoped that the educative functions of the commission will be far more important than its investigatory functions. A measure of its success will be the extent to which the commission raises community confidence in public administration in the Territory.
As I mentioned, this commission will have formidable investigatory powers. There is, of course, an inevitable tension between the rights of individuals accused of wrongdoing and the rights of the community to fair and honest government. To those who say this proposed legislation is an unjustified interference with the rights of individuals, may I stress this point: The commission will only be able to investigate the corrupt conduct of private persons in connection with public administration. The harsh glare of public exposure is on public administration and corruption in the public administration. It will not be the function of the commission to go rooting around in private houses on matters that are not of public significance.
Mr Speaker, if I may quote a former Premier of a neighbouring State:
Corruption is by its nature secretive and difficult to elicit. It is a crime of the powerful. It is consensual crime, with no obvious victim willing to complain.
That, I think, is the difficulty with the kind of conduct that this legislation aims to direct itself to.
As I said before, saying there is no corruption is as absurd as saying there is no sin, and in this respect I was struck by a tongue-in-cheek letter to the editor of the Canberra Times earlier this week. The letter writer, a former senior public servant, was taking the newspaper to task over its backing of the Carnell Government line opposing the idea of an independent commission against corruption in the ACT. "There is nothing in Canberra which could induce impropriety", the learned letter writer wrote. "There are only extensive land deals, expensive commercial development schemes, substantial incentive grants, lease purpose changes, environmental rulings, zoning decisions, outsourcing contracts, tendering procedures, consultancy arrangements, an incipient drug industry and similar innocuous activities of routine administration". Mr Speaker, that is very Shakespearian but it is very pertinent, I think, to the point that I am trying to make.