Parliament to vote on anti-corruption body

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A federal anti-corruption watchdog could go a step further as Parliament prepares to vote on a proposed model.

Although the government believes it has struck the right balance to produce a robust integrity body, non-banks will continue to push for several amendments to the model.

Independent MP Zali Steggall said while the proposed model would help increase accountability and transparency, she did not think it went far enough.

“At the moment there are far too many provisions in this bill which keep it behind closed doors and provide a totally different standard for politicians than the rest of the public,” Ms Steggall told parliament on Wednesday.

Ms Steggall pointed to problems in the bill regarding limitations on public hearings, the definition of corrupt conduct and the composition of the commission.

“It’s hugely important for the Australian public to have confidence…and here’s an opportunity for the government to step in,” she said.

Independent colleague Kylea Tink called for stronger protections to be put in place to ensure the commission’s independence and continued funding are protected, regardless of party in government.

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said it was the government’s “sincere hope” that the appointments to the commission would receive cross-party support.

Appointments will have to be approved by a parliamentary committee on the recommendation of the Attorney General.

Dreyfus said the appointment process would be robust and merit-based.

The government has also committed $262 million over four years for the establishment and operation of the commission.

Independent MP Dai Le, who represents Fowler’s multicultural constituency, lobbied for the commission to ensure that anti-corruption measures would not negatively impact the mental health of witnesses called to testify.

“While I strongly support all measures that reduce corrupt conduct, investigations cannot lead people to feel such pressure that will lead them to commit suicide,” she said.

“We need to be aware of the impact of such public inquiries on people’s lives, especially when dealing with witnesses from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.”

Mr Dreyfus said the government would improve safeguards for the welfare of witnesses, particularly for people who do not speak English as their first language or who live with a disability.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government’s proposed model was designed using the best features of state-level integrity bodies.

“We need an anti-corruption body that no government can lead or arm,” he said.

“Creating a national anti-corruption commission will change federal policy for the better.”

After a late-night sitting, the House of Representatives will vote Thursday on the National Integrity Commission proposal and suggested amendments.

The Senate has extended its sitting schedule so that laws establishing the commission can be passed before the end of the parliamentary year.

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