INDEPENDENT BROAD-BASED ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION BILL 2011 and VICTORIAN INSPECTORATE BILL 2011
I rise to make a contribution on the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission Bill 2011. This bill, which has had an incubation period mired in delay, uncertainty and controversy, has now emerged, squeezed out into the light of day much later than promised and yet still half baked by a government desperate to divert attention away from the scandals that have rocked it to its core and been created entirely by its own incompetent hands. I ask members of this house to recall earlier times when the gloss on many members of this government was still shiny and they still believed the words that came out of their mouths. When policies were being released to much fanfare and hubris about the coalition’s commitments to transparency, accountability and integrity in government, big, bold statements were made.
The government said it would establish a world-class independent, broadbased anticorruption commission (IBAC) with comprehensive powers and razor-sharp teeth by 1 July 2011.
It said it would introduce a comprehensive ministerial code of conduct to keep the executive and its staff accountable and that there would be curtailment and transparency of fundraising activities and a reform of FOI! And who could forget such purlers as, ‘What you see is what you get; we are straight shooters and will not engage in spin’. What a thick treacle of overblown rhetoric and sticky words the Victorian people were fed by this lot! Layer upon layer of what should have been solemn promises made up of the most serious of words have now been exposed as husks of empty rhetoric spun into layers of fluff.
We have heard a lot about our 11 years from those opposite, but we have had 11 months of this government, and the scandals that have engulfed this lot have already done immeasurable damage to what are supposed to be independent institutions. There has also been immeasurable damage done to the integrity of this government’s leadership and the confidence Victorians can have in their future.
The tardy introduction of this light-on-detail piece of legislation is just one in a long line of profound disappointments from a government that has not only failed to live up to its promise of openness, accountability and integrity but has stamped all over it. As other members of the opposition have pointed out, it is beyond ironic that this bill has been introduced in the swirling winds of the outrageous conduct of the senior members of the government who are the subjects of the recent Office of Police Integrity (OPI) report, Crossing the Line. There has been unprecedented, unforgivable and unbelievable interference by government in the independent senior command of Victoria Police. As if all of this duplicity were not enough, the government has engaged in a repeated and, quite frankly, counterproductive strategy to try to spin its way out of trouble using weasel words, half answers and concocted explanations that lack both credibility and frankness.
Contrary to the coalition’s ferocious demands prior to the election about ministerial accountability, it has used its numbers to quash a proper examination of who on that side of the house should be believed regarding conflicting accounts of key events. And there is a lack of a ministerial code of conduct. If ever a government needed one of those, it is this one, yet where is it? Would you believe it has not been drafted?
Clearly people within this government have been too busy orchestrating the downfall of the Chief Commissioner of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions and turning our green wedges into developers’ paradises to focus their attention on delivering on their integrity promises, which makes the failures of this government so unsurprising yet so disappointing. Let us not forget the media articles when the Minister responsible for the establishment of an anti-corruption commission pre-empted early in the piece what he believed the IBAC would be looking at and then had separate meetings about who should lead it.
What is fundamentally missing from this bill before the house is detail — the meat and bones of how this IBAC will work. All we are given are weak promises that all will be revealed in good time. Given this government’s form to date, we are not holding our breath. This is just not good enough — in a long line of not-good-enoughs.
Basic, fundamental aspects of how this IBAC is supposed to work remain a mystery months after it was supposed to be fully operational.
Questions remain about what the specific investigatory powers of the IBAC will be, what the definition of ‘corruption’ or ‘corrupt conduct’ will be and what jurisdiction the IBAC will have. The absolute refusal to detail these most central aspects of the function and powers of the proposed IBAC means that, once again, this government has comprehensively failed to deliver on either the substance or the time frame of its much-trumpeted promise. The oceans that exist between this government’s oft-sworn promises and its actual conduct are deep, wide and full of predators. Once again this government has let down the people of Victoria and has not lived up to the many promises it made about accountability, transparency and integrity.
In 11 months the scandals we have seen have set a new benchmark.
We have seen thick OPI reports, there are Ombudsman’s reports to come and developers are getting advantages out in the green wedge land, and on it goes. Once again members of this house see an absolute disparity between what was promised to the Victorian people and what has been delivered. They took, on face value, that this was a government that promised that what you saw was what you got. What we have seen from this government is precisely the opposite. Those who were entrusted to act with decency and honour in government have manifestly and continually failed to do so. This IBAC, with its lack of detail and its failing to live up to its time frame or substance, is yet another example.