The Senate inquiry into Minister Peter Dutton was a completely inappropriate process for trying to resolve allegations of favouritism in visa intervention decisions, with results that are only likely to further erode Australians’ trust in government, according to a national anti-corruption expert.
Professor A J Brown of Griffith University, and board member of Transparency International Australia, today provided a bipartisan briefing for all federal parliamentarians on better alternatives set out in the new paper, ‘A National Integrity Commission: Options for Australia’.
The briefing was hosted by senators Jacinta Collins (Labor) and Dean Smith (Liberal), chair and senior government member of last year’s Senate Select Committee on a National Integrity Commission, which found the integrity framework needed strengthening ‘as a matter of priority’.
“This bipartisan search for solutions contrasts with the fractious political conflict over the allegations against Mr Dutton, which most Australians will see as unresolved by what is essentially an inconclusive and ill-equipped parliamentary ‘show trial’,” Professor Brown said.
“Government Senators are right to label this inquiry process as farcical and shambolic.
“The inquiry’s Opposition and cross-bench majority are correct that most Australians would want any such prima facie cases of favouritism to be fully investigated and resolved, but their own report confirms this rushed, incomplete process was not fit for purpose as a means of doing so.
“Key witnesses including Mr Dutton, his staff, frontline officers of the Department and Australian Border Force, and the former ABF Commissioner were never interviewed or were shielded.
“No independent verification of the Department’s documents has occurred.
“The whole process was conducted in public – when any proper investigation should have started privately, undertaken by someone with no interests other than the facts and the public interest.
“The real losers in this are the Australian public, many of whom will have no confidence in the objectivity or impartiality of the conclusions reached, from either side.”
Among the reforms in the Options Paper are stronger processes for parliamentary and ministerial integrity, “to ensure independent, professional investigations in which Australians can have real confidence and which provide a real resolution,” Professor Brown said.
The paper is part of the Australian Research Council-funded National Integrity System Assessment, led by Griffith University and Transparency International Australia.