3 October 2021

It's time for the ACT Integrity Commission to start making some noise

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation
Gladys Berejiklian

Gladys Berejiklian says she had no choice but to go after ICAC decided to investigate.

Former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian may be only guilty of poor judgment in her choice of boyfriend, but her departure highlights the power anti-corruption bodies can wield and their value as a vehicle to hold politicians and public officials to account.

Bombshell though it was on Friday afternoon, the consequences of her relationship with former MP Daryl Maguire loomed large over her, and ICAC’s decision to investigate did not come out of the blue.

Ms Berejiklian could have stood aside for the duration as Neville Wran once did, but in the current circumstances of the pandemic, decided it was best to simply go and not encumber the government as it attempts to guide the state out of lockdown, particularly as the ICAC probe could take some time.

Some may argue that ICAC is too powerful and it has destroyed a career without even coming to judgment. That view would have some sympathy in the South Australian Parliament which, rather self-interestedly, recently voted to pull some teeth from its anti-corruption body.

READ ALSO Is it time for science to prevail over COVID-19 vaccine opinion?

The trouble is the notion of accountability under the Westminster tradition that has caused politicians of all colours to leave office is now seen as somewhat quaint, especially in the Federal sphere where they just tend to grit their teeth and tough it out, or take a sabbatical on the backbench until the storm has passed and they can return as if nothing had happened.

Ms Berejiklian has serious questions to answer and in another time would not have lasted this long.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison now has a rogue’s gallery of ministers and former ministers that have escaped the scrutiny that a federal ICAC would cast on them.

The most striking example is a former attorney-general no less, Christian Porter, who has been the beneficiary of a secret donation to help with the costs of his defamation case against the ABC.

Despite the clamour from the Opposition, Greens and independent MPs for a federal ICAC with real teeth, the prospects of such a body ever seeing the light day remain slim, three years after one was promised.

Politicians and public officials are responsible for decisions that affect peoples lives and livelihoods and involve massive amounts of taxpayers’ money.

When tradition fades, parliamentary sanction fails and politics is a zero-sum game, an ICAC is all that is left to uncover the truth.

There is no doubt that Australia should have a federal ICAC.

The ACT established its own anti-corruption body more than two years ago and there has hardly been a peep out of it.

It has set up offices in Kingston, launched investigations, and issued a guide for public servants, but its website only says that reports are ‘coming soon’.

How soon we don’t know.

The ACT may be a small jurisdiction, and the kind of corruption that might thrive elsewhere may not prosper here, but it is high time the Integrity Commission started showing the people of the ACT what is it is there for.

It may be inconvenient in this time of crisis, but anti-corruption bodies do not operate at politicians’ or public servants’ convenience, and that is their strength.

The Commission needs to be more vocal and visible so it can keep faith with the public.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

I think members of the ACT Integrity Commission should be investigated to see whether they have been worth their salaries.

HiddenDragon8:25 pm 06 Oct 21

Aside from serious investigate reporting, which others have pertinently identified as a major deficit in the current ACT political culture, the other missing ingredient is juicy leaks. Anyone familiar with Sherlock Holmes’ Adventure of Silver Blaze, and the curious incident of the dog that did not bark in the night, would understand the reasons for that.

Capital Retro12:58 pm 06 Oct 21

The CBR brand thing appears to developed into a slush fund for targeted projects.


Does anyone know where details of the income and expenditure are hidden?

There have been hints of corruption in the ACT for decades. However, there was little or no media scrutiny. Since the Integrity Commission was formed …..dead silence…..seems to be the answer. It would be naive of Canberrans to assume that there is no corruption here. Perhaps there isn’t any and pigs can fly. As an example, in every state there have been demonstrated cases where land sales, development, Government contracts, Government grants, out sourcing etc. are involved, there has been instances of inappropriate behavior” which has not been in the public interest. I am not sure what it costs to keep an Integrity Commission at the tax payer’s expense but I wander if we are getting our monies worth. Voters demand transparency rather and also do not accept arbitrary forced taxes and capital expenditure without proper consultation and scrutiny.

Capital Retro12:07 pm 05 Oct 21

All over the world there can be found the word corruption in the same sentences containing the phrases “light rail” and “land purchases”. Just saying.


Has any significant land actually been purchased for light rail in the ACT however?

The only obvious site in my mind from stage 1 might be where the depot is – I don’t know whether that was already government land or not.

Can’t see where else Government would have purchased significant amounts of land on stage 1 – a significant number of the sites redeveloped on Northbourne were government land already. And with stations etc all already in the median strip of major roads, there isn’t a heap of locations where land would have needed to be purchased to allow the route to be built.

Didn’t the regime compulsorily acquire land for the Dickson bus interchange, and then kept the details secret from the voters.

I don’t think Capital is inferring that the government bought land in this case but rather that developers who have significantly benefited from massive windfall gains in property price increases have.

Fair enough Chewy – that article covers both angles per say.

Just because developers and individuals have had windfalls from light rail doesn’t mean there has been any corrupt behaviour. I mean to see lay been discussed here many times that light rail was as much a vehicle to drive growth as it was a public transport project. So hardly a surprise to anyone.

Capital Retro11:06 am 04 Oct 21

In 2012, ACTEW stated that it was “proud of its history of supporting the Canberra community and, in a city that has few large corporations to provide sponsorships or community support, ACTEW believes that this is an important element of its business.”

In this regard, ACTEW was asked by the Voting Shareholders in December 2012 to
have an independent review undertaken that considered the governance framework
around decision making concerning sponsorships, corporate marketing and
ACTEW engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to undertake this review, which
was led by two Sydney based partners. In relation to sponsorships, PwC, in its
summary of findings:
– found that, relative to its water utility peers:
– ACTEW discloses a high level of detail relating to sponsorship information through its annual reporting process; and
– ACTEW was the only utility reviewed which publicly disclosed both the total investment and component parts of its sponsorship program;
– suggested that ACTEW could enhance its documentation to more clearly
demonstrate how sponsorship related to key business decisions and strategy including by establishing clearer delineation between sponsorship and marketing activities.

Why suggest that last statement given that everything else looked squeaky clean? (my comment)

Just saying and it’s buried on a report on the internet.

Ah yes the good old days of ACTEW.
Seem to remember it was not run so much as a Guvvy body, but more like a fiefdom.

curiousgrowth9:04 am 04 Oct 21

Is it not then time for the media to do some solid investigative journalism and uncover one of the political misgivings – and then force the ACT Anti-corruption into action through the light of truth? It’s all fair to cry “why aren’t you acting” when they rely on people bringing them information to highly the concerns of the public that need investigating. Scroll back through your paper, find a story, take the red pill and chase it down the rabbit hole until you find the truth.

The media in the ACT appears to be incapable of performing any investigations. They are good at parroting official lines supplied by politicians they like, and complaining about ones they don’t, but lack investigative skills.

They mouth opinions, not perform investigations. That would require aptitude and effort.

It’s a good point you make.

It has been funny to see how Andrew Barr has responded indignantly to some of the reaaonable questions from outside journalists at the COVID press conferences.

Far too used to being hit with the Dorothy Dixers of the local brigade who don’t dare offend their masters.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.