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Royal Commission or ICAC

By John Hargreaves - 25 April 2016 44

ICAC

I was thinking about the Royal Commission into the construction unions recently and the current call for a Royal Commission into the banks and a couple of things struck me as relevant.

Firstly, the Heydon Commission was a political animal designed to go after a particular union. Fess up, guys, you know that’s the truth. Sure some issues were exposed and rightly so. But some poor quality assertions have been made, some botched investigations have been made and all in all, it has been a monumental waste of money. The same investigations could have been made by the Crime Commission or a joint activity between the AFP and State and Territory Police Forces who already have the powers to charge for offences.

Secondly, the call for a Royal Commission into the banks is too narrow. Sure banks are colluding and gouging. Sure banks have had their share of scandals recently. But insurance companies are in the frame also. So are health funds. Where is the Royal Commission into those businesses?

ASIC is portrayed by the conservatives as having enough power to prosecute, to require witnesses to incriminate themselves, to delve deeply into the entrails of business to address corruption and malpractice. Well, if it has the powers, why haven’t they been used to date? The elimination of $120 million may have had a bit to do with that and now Mr Morrison is going to give it back to them!

ASIC has had the powers since forever and before the removal of the money so why, again, haven’t they moved on corrupt business practices? Where is ASIC in the Palmer nickel mine affair? MIA.

Some people have called for a federal ICAC. There may be some merit in this as it would broaden the scope of attack on corruption across all sectors, business, governance and unions. Let’s see how this plays out.

For an ACT perspective, the suggestion of having an ICAC isn’t new. I refer readers to a report from the ACT Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety into a proposed bill for a Commission for Integrity in Government, moved by the late Trevor Kaine in 1999.

That Committee, of which I was Deputy Chair, looked into the bill and conducted an inquiry which included discussions with a range of agencies with this type of policing powers. These included the Ombudsman, the Auditor-General, the NSW ICAC and the NSW Parliamentary Committee on ICAC.

The inquiry was essentially about integrity in governance in the ACT, but it had its genesis in a suggestion from Mr Kaine that we have an ICAC here. I can recall discussing the matter with him and we agreed that our jurisdiction was too small for such an agency, that corruption was not rife here, present but not rife. Nonetheless he wanted the inquiry into government practices to ensure that we had protection against corruption over government contracts. And so the inquiry was limited to this aspect.

We received advice that an ICAC was unnecessary, the powers of the Auditor-General and Ombudsman should be strengthened and the police should be more pro-active. Essentially, that the protections were there but we were not using them effectively enough.

I’m not sure that we do have the protections against corruption in business so maybe a Royal Commission into the business sector generally, like the one into the unions, across the country would be a good idea. Or maybe a federal ICAC. But having a federal ICAC is fraught with legislative dangers. The Constitution is one of them. The section on free trade between the states often limits jurisdiction for federal intervention.

More conjugation is needed perhaps.

What’s Your opinion?


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44 Responses to
Royal Commission or ICAC
HenryBG 11:28 am 27 Apr 16

JC said :

gooterz said :

JC said :

gooterz said :

Incidentally, I played in my band at a club recently and went into the pokie lounge to have a post gig drink. There were no more than 10 people playing the machines at that time of the evening.

I was recently sitting in a pokies room (the music elsewhere in the place was awful) and I observed a 30-ish guy who was playing a $1-a-pull pokie machine and he had over 300 credits. He lost them all, and I saw him twice feeding 4 or 5 more $100 notes into the machine. I reckon I saw him put $1,000 into it all up.

Where was that given that the machines in the ACT only take $20 notes?

The Oaks at Neutral Bay.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-26/woman-urinated-on-at-groovin-the-moo-criticises-security/7358072

Don’t go there, it’s an unfriendly drunk-making factory.

Oops, wrong link.
https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/The+Oaks+Hotel/@-33.8327101,151.2173576,17z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0x122cedc0ad227cbe

HenryBG 11:25 am 27 Apr 16

gooterz said :

JC said :

gooterz said :

Incidentally, I played in my band at a club recently and went into the pokie lounge to have a post gig drink. There were no more than 10 people playing the machines at that time of the evening.

I was recently sitting in a pokies room (the music elsewhere in the place was awful) and I observed a 30-ish guy who was playing a $1-a-pull pokie machine and he had over 300 credits. He lost them all, and I saw him twice feeding 4 or 5 more $100 notes into the machine. I reckon I saw him put $1,000 into it all up.

Where was that given that the machines in the ACT only take $20 notes?

The Oaks at Neutral Bay.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-26/woman-urinated-on-at-groovin-the-moo-criticises-security/7358072

Don’t go there, it’s an unfriendly drunk-making factory.

John Hargreaves 10:10 am 27 Apr 16

JC said :

gooterz said :

Incidentally, I played in my band at a club recently and went into the pokie lounge to have a post gig drink. There were no more than 10 people playing the machines at that time of the evening.

I was recently sitting in a pokies room (the music elsewhere in the place was awful) and I observed a 30-ish guy who was playing a $1-a-pull pokie machine and he had over 300 credits. He lost them all, and I saw him twice feeding 4 or 5 more $100 notes into the machine. I reckon I saw him put $1,000 into it all up.

Where was that given that the machines in the ACT only take $20 notes?

dungfungus 7:38 am 27 Apr 16

gooterz said :

This is an interesting exercise.

Look up the zoning for your neighbourhood. These range from RZ1 single dwelling blocks with some dual occupancy, RZ2 blocks allow multi unit low rise development no apartments, RZ3 is low rise higher density, RZ4 medium density and RZ5 is high density.

Then google map your neighbourhood. You can see the block boundaries in the map view and the aerial photo in satellite view.

Particularly illuminating is if you have RZ1/RZ2 zoning as these are low rise and the plan is self evident.

New RZ1 blocks are restricted to a 65% plot ratio which is the total areas to exterior walls of all levels added up divided by the block area.

Older RZ1 blocks have further restrictions placed on them and a much lower plot ratio of 50%.

Now look at the satellite photo of what are 2 storey houses on older blocks and try and figure out how exactly did they get approval to almost cover the site with building.

It might also be illuminating to see who the builder was and who obtained the planning approval for the buildings.

I haven’t got time for all that so please illuminate me.

rubaiyat 7:01 am 27 Apr 16

This is an interesting exercise.

Look up the zoning for your neighbourhood. These range from RZ1 single dwelling blocks with some dual occupancy, RZ2 blocks allow multi unit low rise development no apartments, RZ3 is low rise higher density, RZ4 medium density and RZ5 is high density.

Then google map your neighbourhood. You can see the block boundaries in the map view and the aerial photo in satellite view.

Particularly illuminating is if you have RZ1/RZ2 zoning as these are low rise and the plan is self evident.

New RZ1 blocks are restricted to a 65% plot ratio which is the total areas to exterior walls of all levels added up divided by the block area.

Older RZ1 blocks have further restrictions placed on them and a much lower plot ratio of 50%.

Now look at the satellite photo of what are 2 storey houses on older blocks and try and figure out how exactly did they get approval to almost cover the site with building.

It might also be illuminating to see who the builder was and who obtained the planning approval for the buildings.

Matt Watts 11:12 pm 26 Apr 16

Yeah… Banning pubs from having pokies while clubs are allowed to have them. Banning the casino from having pokies. The Labor Club holding onto the old workers club site until the planning classification of the land between Civic and the ANU had changed, allowing the Labor Club to receive a higher price when they decided to sell. The currently proposed development behind the Belconnen Labor Club. Nothing to see here.

HenryBG 5:13 pm 26 Apr 16

gooterz said :

Incidentally, I played in my band at a club recently and went into the pokie lounge to have a post gig drink. There were no more than 10 people playing the machines at that time of the evening.

I was recently sitting in a pokies room (the music elsewhere in the place was awful) and I observed a 30-ish guy who was playing a $1-a-pull pokie machine and he had over 300 credits. He lost them all, and I saw him twice feeding 4 or 5 more $100 notes into the machine. I reckon I saw him put $1,000 into it all up.

Blen_Carmichael 1:03 pm 26 Apr 16

gooterz said :

Incidentally, I played in my band at a club recently and went into the pokie lounge to have a post gig drink. There were no more than 10 people playing the machines at that time of the evening.

And this proves what, please?

John Moulis 11:46 am 26 Apr 16

“Incidentally, I played in my band at a club recently and went into the pokie lounge to have a post gig drink. There were no more than 10 people playing the machines at that time of the evening.”

I’ve found that at the Burns Club as well. The pokies lounge is usually deserted but the all-you-can-eat restaurant is always packed.

mcs 10:51 am 26 Apr 16

I am someone that would support a federal ICAC being implemented – to me, it is close to lunacy that here is not some sort of anti-graft, anti-corruption agency that has oversight over the whole of the Commonwealth Government, as well as the elected Members of Parliament.

The excuses trotted out by pollies every time someone brings up the option say it all to me – if the pollies have nothing to hide, then surely they have nothing to fear from an ICAC with appropriate powers. But ever getting the agreement to make this happen seems unlikely – perhaps if there was a hung parliament as a result of the upcoming election, and someone that holds the balance of power is willing to put it on the agenda, then it might become a possibility. Outside of that, I just can’t see it ever actually happening.

At the ACT level, you can easily argue that we need a similar body, but like Liability says, in such a small jurisdiction, its going to be exceptionally difficult to successfully operate such a model. That isn’t to say there isn’t a strong need for oversight in some degree – too many things go on in the Territory that appear to me to be more than just a ‘co-incidence’, and one shouldn’t underplay the ability of such an agency to at least strike fear in those pushing the boundaries. But maybe we would be better working with what we have, or if a federal ICAC ever happens, finding a way to leverage off their capabilities.

John Hargreaves 9:59 am 26 Apr 16

dungfungus said :

Speaking of ethical issues and protecting people – John, I’m curious to know, what is your position today on ACT Labor making so much money from pokies, given that poker machines target the most socially disadvantaged? You champion the vulnerable and disadvantaged, don’t you, on every front? What was your record as a legislator, on the pokies?

How easy it is to misrepresent the facts. You don’t acknowledge that the Libs receive funds from the Southern Cross and Vikings Clubs, you don’t acknowledge that the Greens accept money from the CFMEU who derive some of their community funds from the Tradies Group.

You don’t acknowledge that the Labor Club Group has anti problem gambling processes in place, unlike the pubs who have none. You don’t acknowledge that it is not the Labor Party who “owns” the Labor Club but rather the membership. The law demands this.

You don’t acknowledge that the Labor Party has only 2000 members (still triple that of the Libs or Greens) but the Labor Club Group has tens of thousands of members, most of whom are not members of the party.

You don’t acknowledge that the Labor Club Group is open about how it applies its funds and is transparent to its membership. You don’t acknowledge what real estate holdings the Libs have and how they have a conflict of interest in the promotion of planning laws.

You don’t acknowledge the attempt by the Labor Party to divest itself of any ongoing dependence on poker machines by the creation of the 73 Foundation which has as its main source of income the major child care player in the country.

You merely trot out the tired old mantra of the Labor Party existing on the back of the 1600 problem gamblers in the ACT, not acknowledging that perhaps the other clubs also trade on those same backs.

My record on the pokies was to encourage clubs to have an alternative income stream, to allow the freedom of choice for the majority of members and to have stringent processes for the identification and the referrals necessary for identified problem gamblers.

Incidentally, I played in my band at a club recently and went into the pokie lounge to have a post gig drink. There were no more than 10 people playing the machines at that time of the evening.

John Hargreaves 9:48 am 26 Apr 16

Maya123 said :

Probably a bit before your time John, but you may be aware that around 1989 or thereabouts the ACT Government established the ACT Government Investigations Unit to investigate corruption and malpractice within and against the ACT Government. That failed miserably and was disbanded after several years.

The Director of the unit at the time said that it was impossible for the unit to do its job properly due to political interference.

I suspect that in a place as small as the ACT any local ICAC or equivalent will suffer the same fate. We are just too small to successfully run something like an ICAC. Everybody knows everybody and you can’t keep anything secret. No career public servant would want a job there, for fear of upsetting someone that may be the delegate that looks at their job application some time down the track.

Good points indeed. the smaller the jurisdiction the easier (it would seem) to police corruption in government. Policing corruption in the private sector is another issue altogether if the police aren’t on their game or it is seen as a victimless crime.

dungfungus 7:57 am 26 Apr 16

When I came to Canberra I was alerted to the acronym “G&C”.
I was told to use lot’s of it when dealing with governments.
I assumed “G&C” meant “Goodwill and Cooperation”.
Many frustrating years I found out it actually meant “Graft & Corruption”
Not my cup of tea but it keeps the wheels turning for some.

Masquara 9:18 pm 25 Apr 16

Speaking of ethical issues and protecting people – John, I’m curious to know, what is your position today on ACT Labor making so much money from pokies, given that poker machines target the most socially disadvantaged? You champion the vulnerable and disadvantaged, don’t you, on every front? What was your record as a legislator, on the pokies?

liability 4:56 pm 25 Apr 16

Probably a bit before your time John, but you may be aware that around 1989 or thereabouts the ACT Government established the ACT Government Investigations Unit to investigate corruption and malpractice within and against the ACT Government. That failed miserably and was disbanded after several years.

The Director of the unit at the time said that it was impossible for the unit to do its job properly due to political interference.

I suspect that in a place as small as the ACT any local ICAC or equivalent will suffer the same fate. We are just too small to successfully run something like an ICAC. Everybody knows everybody and you can’t keep anything secret. No career public servant would want a job there, for fear of upsetting someone that may be the delegate that looks at their job application some time down the track.

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