9 June 2011

South Australia is now setting up an independent anti corruption commission despite the Government repeatedly denying the need for it and having argued that existing agencies were adequate. This time last year the Premier and the Attorney General appeared satisfied that their State alone among Australian jurisdictions did not need a special focus on anti corruption. This stance weakened as public support for change strengthened.

Adelaide’s Sunday Mail editorial this week has championed the advent of the commission as a resource not only for finding and preventing corruption, but also for preventing “the temptation for people in power to teeter toward corruption”. The paper considers that the effect will be to help safeguard the integrity of democracy in South Australia, and underpin public confidence in government.

It comments that “those in positions of power will need to be more transparent in their behaviour; it will influence how such people conduct themselves, for the better… It will also be a signal to people operating in the shadows that influence-peddling and the greasing of palms will not be tolerated.”

The funding for the Commission forms part of today’s State budget. This means that the South Australian ICAC with more than 20 investigators exercising extensive powers, including phone-tapping and secret hearings, should be operating by the end of 2011, possibly ahead of Victoria’s IBAC – still waiting for its establishing legislation.  Just as all Australian jurisdictions already have processes for controlling the interaction between lobbyists and Ministers, their advisers and senior officials, so by 2012 they will all have powerful, independent, anti corruption agencies.

There appears to be no appetite among New Zealand legislators for either type of resource.