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Thursday, 1 August 2019
Page: 1763

Mr PORTER (PearceAttorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Leader of the House) (09:47): Perhaps not unsurprisingly, we won't be supporting the motion.

Opposition members: Why?

Mr PORTER: I'll explain why for members opposite. The motion is, in effect, a complaint that the government has not introduced a bill for the establishment of a Commonwealth integrity commission in the first three weeks of this parliament. They may think that that should have occurred and that three weeks was a reasonable period of time.

Mr Dreyfus: We do.

Mr PORTER: Indeed. So what I might do is commence by reading from the Labor Party media release, which is essentially as far as their policy went on a Commonwealth integrity commission:

In government, Labor will continue to consult with experts on the design details of the Commission.

Legislation to establish the National Integrity Commission will be introduced into Parliament within the first 12 months of a Shorten Labor Government.

What's fascinating is that it's totally unreasonable that we take more than three weeks to do something as complicated as design an integrity commission, but, had the Shorten Labor government become the Shorten Labor government, 12 months would have been an entirely reasonable period of time for them to do that. That does strike me as something of a double standard in this area.

It is true, for the benefit of the shadow Attorney-General, that we are very substantially more advanced than they ever were in the design of something as complicated as an integrity commission. It is true that, in December last year, the Prime Minister and I announced our commitment to an integrity commission. We did that with a discussion paper of over 3,000 words. It is true that the commitment of members opposite to an integrity commission is effectively a press release with six, what you might call—or they call—design principles. So vague are the design principles that no-one knows what on earth it is that they're committing to by their commitment to an integrity commission. So vague are their design principles that they would have needed to consult experts for 12 months about what it is they actually promised to do before they introduced legislation. But, somehow, the screaming urgency of this is so great that 12 months would have been a reasonable period of time for them for something this complicated, but three weeks should be the time limit for the government.

Mr Giles interjecting

The SPEAKER: I would just remind the member for Scullin that he is interjecting and he is not in his seat.

Mr PORTER: What we have done is set out a very clear model for what an integrity commission would look like. It may not be agreed with by members opposite but it is very detailed. It is far more than these vague design principles. What's also notable is that we have already gone through a consultation phase. What is also notable is that we allocated in our last budget $106.7 million of new money that will underpin the establishment of the Integrity Commission. What is also notable is that that is in addition to the $40.7 million of existing funding for ACLEI, which will be a very important part of the Integrity Commission that we will build and legislate for. I note that Labor's commitment of $58.7 million is $89 million less than the financial commitment that we have made in our forward estimates for the establishment and operation of this body. So this motion, I think, has at its heart a complete and ridiculous double standard.

One of the reasons why you have to be cautious and detailed in your approach and take the time that is necessary to design an integrity commission properly and soberly—and not on the basis of wild accusations of impropriety or lack of integrity on the part of members of this side of the House or indeed any people in civil society—is that, if they are not designed properly, cautiously and cleverly, they result in very significant injustices. The history of integrity commissions is that the poorly designed ones very often exhibit those injustices at their peak and most egregious in the early operation of those integrity commissions. Having been tasked with the design of this Integrity Commission, I think back very often to a case in 2008 of a very senior public servant by the name of Mike Allen in Western Australia. I will read directly from the report into the Corruption and Crime Commission's investigation by the Parliamentary Inspector for the Corruption and Crime Commission. Mike Allen was a very senior and very well-respected public servant. It was noted that the CCC had made a finding of misconduct against Mr Allen. It had concluded in its report of 5 October 2007 that he had complied with the wishes of one Brian Burke in August 2006 by agreeing to appoint a DPI officer to write a report on a development called the Smiths Beach development in preference to other DPI officers.

The SPEAKER: The Attorney will resume his seat. The member for Isaacs on a point of order.

Mr Dreyfus: You were concerned some short time ago, Mr Speaker, as to sticking to the topic of the motion, which is for the suspension of standing orders to allow for discussion—

The SPEAKER: The member for Isaacs will resume his seat. I know the point he is making. I won't allow him to make it at great length, because he'll be eating up the time that is remaining. I just say to the Attorney that he needs to stick to why standing orders should be suspended.

Mr PORTER: The motion to suspend standing orders expresses the view that there is an urgency to this matter, and I am expressing a view as to why the development of a crime and integrity commission should be sober, cautious and take the time that is needed to get it right. What was found in the case of Mr Allen—and I will read directly from the PICCC report—was:

The CCC should publicly acknowledge that it was in error in finding that Mr Allen was guilty of misconduct, and withdraw not only the "opinion" of misconduct by Mr Allen as expressed in its October report but also its "substituted" opinion of February 13, 2008, as neither opinion is supported by evidence, and both are inconsistent with evidence which the CCC had, but did not refer to in its report, as well as evidence of other relevant witnesses not interviewed by the CCC.

The point is that this highly respected civil servant, in the early days of a poorly designed corruption and crime commission, had his career totally destroyed and his life, in essence, professionally ruined because the design was poor and the findings of corruption were totally unfounded. I think that would send a chill down the spine of every civil servant at the Commonwealth level in Australia—and, indeed, the headlong rush based on wild accusations of a lack of integrity or misconduct by members here or opposite.

The shadow Attorney-General has made a range of allegations of misconduct and a lack of integrity. In fact, one of those was made last night against the Treasurer with respect to an electoral advertisement. I know that props are forbidden, so I will not show this, but I have before me a sign made up to look like it is a Liberal sign. It says 'Liberal' in the top left-hand corner—

The SPEAKER: I've got to say to the Attorney: I'm struggling to see how this is relevant to why standing orders should be suspended. I made the ruling with respect to the member for Isaacs. He can make the point he is seeking to make but not in this debate. He can make it at other times throughout the day.

Mr PORTER: I think the relevance of it is that the shadow Attorney-General is a wild hypocrite on these matters. It is a shocking level of hypocrisy beyond the level of imagination. What he did in this debate was make wild accusations. It's that wildness of slurs and accusations which is the very reason why you would take great caution in designing one of these commissions, because people like the shadow Attorney-General would demonstrate their well-known propensity to refer matters in a vexatious, frivolous and politically motivated way based on hypocrisy.

This is a direct response to the matters raised by the shadow Attorney-General in his arguing for this motion. The idea that this motion should be supported should be rejected. This will be done cautiously. It will be done carefully. It won't be done by media release. It won't be done by wild accusation. It will be done with consultation. It will be done in a way that is consistent with the best operative models for corruption and crime commissions. It will be done in a reasonable period of time. It'll be done a lot quicker than the promise those opposite made as to when they would do it; it'll be a lot quicker than the 12 months that they promised. A reasonable period of time needs to be taken for this, and it will be taken. The accusations that were levied were wild and demonstrate hypocrisy of a vast nature.

The SPEAKER: The time allotted for this debate has concluded. The question is that the motion moved by the member for Isaacs to suspend standing orders be agreed to.