Restoring Integrity to Politics
Australians expect their political representatives to exercise their powers and carry out their responsibilities with integrity and consideration of the maximum good for the public. Sadly recent history shows our current representatives have been abusing our trust in favour of their own self-interest and party political goals resulting in wasted tax dollars and destroying trust in public institutions.
Institutions at the state level have proven to be able to address some of the poor behaviour, so we have looked at these to protect Australians from corrupt conduct.
Federal Independent Commission against Corruption
The Australian Progressives support the establishment of a Commonwealth Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC), replacing the various proposed Integrity Commissions and incorporating functions of the current Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.
An Australian Progressives’ Federal ICAC will:
- Include terms of reference and powers to take legal action against politicians, senior public servants, and those engaging in corrupt conduct while in receipt of government funding; and
- Include powers for cancelling post-political career entitlements, with the exception of superannuation, and
- Have funding guaranteed and protected from cuts due to party-political intervention; and
- Include establishment clauses for retrospective powers to investigate suspicious conduct in all current and former officials and representatives from 2008 onward.
Financing Political Parties
Funding for political parties is a fraught subject. At its core, it costs money for these organisations - including the Australian Progressives - to run their day to day activities, campaign on issues and in elections, conduct research to inform policy and fund candidates. However the current loose laws surrounding political fundraising hide many donations and exclude the poor from access to their representatives to voice their issues. The Australian Progressives have adopted the positions below and will push for:
- Real-time donations declarations
- Ending corporate donations
- Requiring individual donors to disclose membership to advocacy, lobbyist, peak bodies, union and other civic organisations when donating significant sums to a political party.
- Banning ‘cash-for-access’ events
- To compensate for these restrictions; expand public funding of political campaigns.
Journalist and Whistleblower protections
Political corruption is only exposed by the efforts and bravery of whistleblowers and investigative journalists. An effective anti-corruption platform must protect them from revenge or career blacklisting if they speak out against instances of corrupt conduct. The Federal Government has previously prosecuted whistleblowers for doing the right thing and individuals have suffered serious abuse for revealing corrupt or illegal conduct by private businesses.
Therefore, the Australian Progressives recognise the need for, and support:
- Strengthening legal protections for all whistleblowers in both public and private spheres against being publicly named or retaliated against; and
- Secure channels for anonymously reporting corrupt or illegal conduct; and
- Legislative protections for journalists undertaking public interest journalism; and
- Preserving the Public Interest defence against defamation retaliation by individuals accused of improper conduct.
- Provide clearly defined internal disclosure processes within the institutions of Parliament and government, and guidance for the private sector.
Federal Parliamentarian Code of Conduct
Ministers have access to extraordinary powers under Australian law to address issues that arise in their portfolios. Even Members of Parliament have access to substantial funds made available to carry out their representative responsibilities effectively. These powers must be balanced with responsibilities for ethical use. Too often abuse of allowances or powers is allowed because Codes of Conduct are not binding or written without consequences.
- Establish a binding and enforceable Federal Parliamentarian Code of Conduct, modeled after the current Australian Public Service Framework.
- To coincide with this we will establish an associated charter of Parliamentarian Values.
State/Territory Corruption Commissions
- Enact legislation to provide wider and more consistent powers across Australia's anti-corruption bodies.
Preventing Corrupt Conduct
Just like in healthcare, prevention is better than a cure. We recognise changing the entitled culture of parliament needs more than just the threat of punishment to coerce good behaviour. These policies will drive cultural change among politicians.
Our corruption prevention policies include:
- A standing advisory committee of public servants, not parliamentarians, for review of proposed anti-corruption bills and evaluation of the outcomes of ICAC investigations.
- Enabling anti-corruption commissions to review former Ministers’ decisions where a perceived conflict of interest can be seen with post-office appointments.
- Investing in analytics/reporting disclosure technology and powers to identify potential sources of corruption.
- Protection of anti-corruption commissions’ funding arrangements to prevent politically motivated funding cuts.
- Seeking public agreement with other parties to have appointments exempted from political interference and funding independence.
Truth in Political Advertising
Elections are hard fought with campaign platforms and rival parties’ counter-claims trying to persuade voters to see the worst in each side. Lies and character assassinations in political advertising have the effect of destroying trust in the political class. Media and independent fact checkers face a constant backlog of countering misinformation designed solely for the 24 hour news cycle aimed at creating an emotional reaction without any basis in fact.
The Australian Progressives are investigating ways to enforce truth in political advertising that speeds up the ability of fact checkers to stop misinformation being left unchallenged and proactively prevent lies in campaigns without hampering freedom of speech.