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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Senate Committee on National integrity Commission, Government senators not interested in this or political donation reform

 It's not simply that when Quentin Dempster speaks, things happen.

After all The Greens have been on about the need for a Federal anti-corruption commission for years, so too a whole raft of organisations and individuals who don't buy the idea that the government and all its constituent parts and players are unique in the long history of humankind.

So while the commission or some other much needed response that tightens things up at the federal level may still be far off in the distance, yesterday some stirring.

On the motion of Senators Wang and Madison the Senate took two minutes to vote to establish "the Select Committee relating to the establishment of a National Integrity Commission" to report to the Senate by September 2016 with these terms of reference. 

Labor, The Greens and cross bench senators voted for. 

None spoke, if you discount a minor intervention by Greens Senator Siewert. 

But the vote is a welcome confirmation of Labor's current interest, having passed up on the opportunity to act when they were in office and darting and weaving on the subject since.

Government party senators voted against. One, Senator Scott Ryan, Minister for Vocational Skills and Training had one minute for the stock standard government line:
The government has a zero tolerance approach to corruption and is committed to stamping out corruption in all its forms. We have a multifaceted approach to combating corruption. We are always looking at how we can strengthen that, rather than throwing the whole system out based on the presumption that a national anticorruption commission will be more effective. The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity is responsible for preventing, detecting and investigating serious issues of corruption in federal law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the Commonwealth Ombudsman performs an important function in investigating and auditing various agencies and functions. The Australian Federal Police also play a fundamental role in investigating serious corruption issues. The government will continue to take a strong approach to tackling corruption in all forms.
DIVISION:AYES 37 (10 majority) NOES 27 PAIRS 6
Brown, CLBullock, JW
Cameron, DNCarr, KJ
Conroy, SMDastyari, S
Day, RJDi Natale, R
Gallacher, AMGallagher, KR
Hanson-Young, SCKetter, CR
Lambie, JLazarus, GP
Leyonhjelm, DELines, S
Ludlam, SLudwig, JW
Madigan, JJMarshall, GM
McAllister, JMcEwen, A (teller)
McKim, NJMcLucas, J
Moore, CMMuir, R
O'Neill, DMRhiannon, L
Rice, JSiewert, R
Simms, RASingh, LM
Sterle, GWang, Z
Waters, LJWhish-Wilson, PS
Xenophon, N
Abetz, EBack, CJ
Bernardi, CBushby, DC (teller)
Canavan, MJCormann, M
Edwards, SFawcett, DJ
Fierravanti-Wells, CFifield, MP
Heffernan, WJohnston, D
Lindgren, JMMacdonald, ID
McGrath, JMcKenzie, B
Nash, FO'Sullivan, B
Parry, SPayne, MA
Reynolds, LRonaldson, M
Ruston, ARyan, SM
Seselja, ZSmith, D
Williams, JR
Bilyk, CLScullion, NG
Collins, JMABirmingham, SJ
Peris, NBrandis, GH
Polley, HCash, MC
Urquhart, AESinodinos, A
Wong, PColbeck,

 Earlier in the day more voices were heard in debate on a Greens urgency motion:
"The need for immediate action on political donations reform, to address the corrupting influence of political donations, including from property developers and fossil fuel companies."
Debate here and there strayed into broader anti-corruption issues and took an hour.

The motion passed without a vote so Senator Seiwert may get a spot higher on the agenda sometime for the substantive issue.

No surprise that Greens senators and crossbenchers Leyonhjelm, Madigan and Lambie are up for action on this front. Senator Rhiannon outlined how the system is broke but Government senators clearly think things are pretty rosy. 

Labor is committed to significant change but some of its speakers seemed glad to change the subject.

Senator Lambie told the Senate of a close encounter with the PM, looking deeply in his eyes, listening to his low deep voice saying.... 

'there's no corruption in federal politics.'
"I recently met the Prime Minister and when I raised the issue of establishing a federal commission against corruption, a federal ICAC, he dismissed the idea by trying to tell me that a federal ICAC was not warranted because there were not many opportunities in federal politics, compared with state politics, for corruption to occur. I almost believed that nice story from our PM—and I mean who wouldn't? As I looked deeply in the PM's eyes, he said with that low deep voice with that nice smile repeat after me : 'There's no corruption in federal politics—only in state politics. There's no corruption in federal politics—only in state politics. I was left with that fuzzywuzzy feeling of hope for a few days after my meeting with the PM that 'there's no corruption in federal politics— only in state politics.'
And then—what do you know?—Veterans Affairs Minister Stuart Roberts was forced to resign; we found out about the rich Chinese businessman having drinks with Liberal Party members and the $10,000 watches that were given out as gifts.
The same sort of thing happened after I wrote to former Liberal PM Abbott asking him effectively whether any people associated with the Liberal Party and mentioned in the Heydon Royal Commission secret reports were corrupt. And PM Tony Abbott wrote back to me, essentially saying that no-one in the Liberal Party was corrupt; and then seven days later we found out the Liberal Party President in Victoria had defrauded their members to the tune of about $1.5 million.
Last year's Roy Morgan Survey of Professions saw 13% rate Federal politicians highly on ethics and honesty.

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