The Guardian • Issue #1996


Where’s our federal anti-corruption commission?

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #1996

There were many issues driving the 2019 federal election – wages and the cost of living, climate change, and negative gearing, among others. One issue, however, seemed to have support from all the major parties, albeit in different forms: a federal anti-corruption commission.

Of course, how a federal anti-corruption commission was developed differed among parties. Irrespective of these differences, the Coalition, under prime minister Scott Morrison, promised to introduce a commission under “a real proposal, with real resources, real teeth” if it was reelected. Spoiler: It hasn’t.

Earlier this month, Morrison hinted at the possibility of legislating such a body before the May election, stating that “the term is not completed yet.” Others in his government, however, seem content with continuing to dangle the project in front of voters.

Attorney General Michaelia Cash told Senate estimates last Tuesday that the government is “not progressing with it at this stage.”

It is important to note that outside of the near-certainty of a broken election promise of legislating a federal anti-corruption commission, the Coalition has broken other promises on this topic. In 2019, the Morrison government missed its own deadline on presenting legislation and hasn’t done so since.

Commenting on the lack of legislation, shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus stated that “[all] we’ve seen is scandal after scandal go unchecked, endless excuses and a weak, pathetic, desultory ‘exposure draft’ which was so bad, the Centre for Public Integrity denounced it is ‘a sham designed to cover up corruption.’ ”

Indeed, scandals like the “Sports Rort” have plagued the Coalition since making such a promise to the Australian people that it would establish a body to deal with these very issues.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many of capitalism’s failings and the inability of ruling class governments to mitigate the hardships Australians are feeling as a result. Every day the working class has demanding answers from those who they voted to represent them. Reactionary elements in society are taking advantage of this crisis and using it to build their movements, generating conspiratorial levels of mistrust in parliamentarians, misguiding people, and directing them away from the class struggle. Suffice to say that a federal anti-corruption commission is not a “fringe” issue that Morrison once thought it was.

While we cannot reform capitalism to be “worker-friendly,” by demanding a federal anti-corruption commission – one that is truly independent of party influences and open to public scrutiny – we can ensure there is an institution in place looking out for and mitigating some of the most egregious behaviour by politicians who are not gaming our elections for their own benefit and profits.

Outside of Morrison’s vague commitment to potentially legislating a federal anti-corruption commission, it seems that it is unlikely to happen and that this will end up being another Morrison broken election promise. We must respond to the Coalition’s failure to keep this promise and help Australians during the pandemic by voting them out this election and pressuring the next government to take serious action to ameliorate the worse conditions facing workers today.

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