Commonwealth Integrity Commission: what is it and how is it different from Icac?

Labor, the Greens and crossbench senators including Jacqui Lambie, Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff have been highly critical of the CIC model

After years of the Coalition resisting the idea, in December 2018 the Morrison government announced it would create a commonwealth anti-corruption body to oversee law enforcement and public-sector integrity.

In November 2020 the government released a consultation draft bill, disappointing many both due to delay and the softness of its approach to corruption. So what is a federal integrity commission and do we need such a body?

What is it?

A Commonwealth Integrity Commission, or CIC, would be an independent body that could scrutinise politicians’ actions.

How is it different to state bodies like NSW Icac?

The CIC is both narrower in scope – because it excludes anyone outside the public sector who dishonestly or improperly influences decision-making – and sets a higher bar for corruption because alleged public-sector misconduct can only be investigated if it would constitute a criminal offence.

The CIC would not hold public hearings into parliamentarians or the public sector, and would not make findings of corrupt conduct, only refer matters to police or prosecutors if it believes a crime has been committed.

Will the government toughen the CIC?

Although Labor, the Greens and crossbench senators including Jacqui Lambie, Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff have been highly critical of the CIC model, the government has made a virtue of its differences from the NSW Icac model.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has said the CIC would have “processes that assume people are innocent before thought to be guilty”, incorrectly implying that the NSW Icac does not grant the presumption of innocence.

The assistant attorney general, Amanda Stoker, has claimed Icac proceedings have “seen lives destroyed over trivialities, careers ended over investigations that have gone nowhere, and the tarnishing of the reputations of people who appear as witnesses, not as suspects, only to find themselves painted guilty in the public eye by their mere appearance”.

When will it be legislated?

Stoker said the government wants the bill in parliament before the end of the year. There is no guarantee it will be legislated. If the Senate amends the bill to toughen it, the government could stall or block the bill in the lower house.

Contributor

Paul Karp

The GuardianTramp

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