Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus has an op-ed in the AFR talking about a proposed federal anti-corruption body. I think reasonable people can disagree as the need for such a body – my second biggest concern is that I suspect there isn’t enough work for such an organisation. Not that the state based equivalents haven’t been busy, but I suspect that a lot of what ICAC, for example, does is make-work.
My biggest concern relates to what exactly constitutes corruption?
Dreyfus suggests some areas where we should be looking:
The potential for corruption at a federal level, and on a grand scale, is huge.
Just think of the size of tenders that are regularly doled out by federal government departments – $50 billion for submarines for example. A quick glance at AusTender shows there were 37 government contracts worth over $1 billion granted in the 2017-18 financial year.
Let’s be clear – the $50 billion spend on submarines is an absolute outrage.* To my mind it was a politically inspired decision to provide an electoral advantage to politicians in South Australia. Okay – yet I suspect no anti-corruption body in Australia, or anywhere in the world, would summon politicians to answer charges on that spend and then rule that the spend was corrupt and recommend criminal charges be laid.
In any event that sort of thing is not best dealt with by the judiciary – the electorate are best suited to handle that sort of thing.
So having read Dreyfus’ op-ed I’m in the position of thinking that he has a solution in search of a problem. We already have laws that prohibit self-dealing and the like.
*At a state level we’ve seen the desalination plant here in Victoria and the $1 billion not to build a road. As far as I am aware, the Victorian anti-corruption body hasn’t investigated those issues either. The opposition hasn’t promised that people will be prosecuted and go to jail.