17 October 2011
Last year, for the first time, all Australian jurisdictions appeared convinced that there was a need for powerful anti-corruption commissions. Embarrassing incidents were repeatedly occurring, despite the efforts of agencies with ethics leadership responsibilities. There seemed a common commitment to imposing controls. Those States without anti corruption agencies agreed that variants of the New South Wales model should be adopted.
Tasmania set up an Integrity Commission, and Victoria legislated for an Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (although the State still hasn’t got around to bringing it into force.)
But Tasmania’s anti corruption regime is unravelling. The super cop, a former Assistant Commissioner with the West Australia Police, has resigned 12 months into her five year appointment. Politicians are now questioning the need for her agency. Although 164 cases have been referred to it, the Commission has found no evidence of systemic corruption. Tasmanian lawyers are calling for a review. Politicians are suggesting that the agency budget could be better spent elsewhere. A cynic could suggest that groups which are subject to the Commission’s investigation powers would feel more comfortable if it were to be disbanded.
The Integrity Commission was set up to restore public trust in government after a string of scandals. A strongly focus has been to promote integrity among MPs, Ministers and their staff, public servants and Police. Trust is said to be hard earned, easily spent, and difficult to recover. Tasmania perhaps has quick powers of recovery.