The long awaited introduction of legislation for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC) has again been stalled, or perhaps a better description is stymied as a majority in the government have “prevented or hindered the progress” of the bill or in fact any discussion.
The government has never wanted an integrity commission. It’s in the same basket as climate issues, and has been getting just enough attention to keep the people happy, until now. A few conservative government members have cited the case of Gladys Berejiklian’s appearance before ICAC in NSW, the state equivalent of a Commonwealth Integrity Commission saying it was a “kangaroo court”, ruining the reputation and political career of a good person. Whether that’s true or not we shall find out in due course, however it was because of Berejiklian’s indiscretion and lack of judgment that she was before ICAC in the first place.
The former Attorney General Christian Porter had charge of building the Commonwealth Integrity Commission legislation, which is a little like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Porters first attempt at draft legislation, which by the way, was presented over a year ago, was met with sound and justified criticism for being weak and ineffectual. Not a good start, but it gets worse!
Observing Porters subsequent behavior since first introducing the draft of the bill, there is little wonder that Porter’s bill would not actually ensure that politicians and senior bureaucrats stayed on the straight and narrow, and would certainly not do the job of restoring at least some public trust in government.
Due to “integrity” issues Porter is no longer Attorney General, we now have an almost invisible and mute Attorney General in Michaelia Cash, and over a year after the first draft was presented nothing further seems to have happened. Last week instead of bringing a revised draft of the promised Commonwealth Integrity Commission, Cash and Morrison decided it was more important to present the half-baked Religious Discrimination Bill, a piece of legislation that means almost nothing without first addressing the shortcomings of the Sex Discrimination Bill, but has conveniently emanated from the Attorney General’s office to the Parliament in the hands of non other than the Prime Minister with his Pentecostal hat on – and didn’t he do such a serious and earnest presentation, as though all our futures depended on it.
Through all the subterfuge and trickery, quite a lot has emerged from the last week in Parliament because of the two bills. If Morrison thought that by presenting the Religious Discrimination Bill himself it would relieve the pressures being built up by, first of all his untruthfulness in once again trying explain away circumstances of his Hawaiian holiday during the bush fires, and secondly, the clumsy attempt to divert the attention of Parliament and the public away from the Commonwealth Integrity Commission legislation, which was promised by Morrison at the last election. Well, it just didn’t work! The coalition ranks are now openly divided with very different ideas about both these bills and the general direction of the government. The conservatives stay steadfastly behind their opaque curtain with their “right to rule” attitude, and the moderates are extremely annoyed about the governments conservatism while they are in danger of losing their seats to independents at the next election.
It’s interesting how much honesty can be brought out by just one week of a sitting Parliament … just no integrity!