Griffith University integrity and anti-corruption experts have played a crucial part in the development of new draft recommendations from Australia’s second National Integrity System Assessment.

Working in conjunction with anti-corruption body Transparency International Australia, Professor A J Brown led the assessment with fellow Griffith academics Professor Janet Ransley and Professor Adam Graycar, and presented the draft recommendations to the Tackling Corruption Together conference held in Melbourne today.

Professor A J Brown

“Major recommendations focus on the national integrity commission: why it must have a broad, truly “national” focus; why it must not be limited to just criminal corruption; why it needs strong and clearer public hearing powers; and why there must be a strong framework of mandatory real time reporting of corruption issues,” Professor Brown, who is also a board member of Transparency International Australia, said.

“These features are missing from some proposals, especially the Commonwealth Government’s. However, the Government has committed a third more resources to its narrower proposal than the Opposition has to its commitments to date.

“Neither level of funding is enough, with $100 million per year estimated as needed to bring integrity spending up to a minimum realistic level, but this shows neither major party has a monopoly on how to get this right, nor has either party made fully credible commitments when it comes to resourcing whistleblower protection.”

Transparency International Australia chief executive Serena Lilywhite says the research does much to bolster the promises made by the country’s major political parties and independents in the lead-up to the federal election, where it is expected integrity reform will become a key issue.

“The question is no longer, ‘Will we have an anti-corruption watchdog?’, it is, ‘How can we have the best one for our democracy?’,” Ms Lilywhite said.

“In this draft report, we present the architecture of a new system — one that goes beyond punishing corruption and fosters the highest level of integrity across our government and parliament.”

The draft recommendations, released under the title Governing with Integrity — a blueprint for reform, also include broader reforms aimed at restoring political integrity.

These comprise suggestions such as national political donation reform and lobbying and ‘revolving door’ reforms, including a cooling-off period of three to five years for any minister before they are able to receive benefits from work related to their former portfolio.

“Apart from the WA upper house, our federal houses of parliament are now also the only ones in the country to have no codes of conduct,” Professor Brown said.

“Many of the rest have no proper advice or enforcement mechanisms, making this a vital part of making our politicians accountable, not only to anti-corruption bodies but to themselves and the everyday public.

“It is now up to policymakers to submit why they shouldn’t go ahead and adopt the types of reforms that both experts and ordinary Australians have been calling for.”

Ms Lilywhite agreed: “These recommendations are the start of the deeper conversation Australians need to have about how we can bring out the best of our democracy.

“With public trust in politicians at an all-time low, we call on all parties to respond to these proposals, and show their commitment to a strong national framework.”

The draft report will also be presented for comment and discussion at a second National Integrity Forum scheduled in Canberra on 15 April. An overview of the document is available on the Griffith website. Submissions, comments and responses to the draft report are welcome by 10 May.

Professor Brown will also be appearing at a public lecture being held in Brisbane this week featuring guest speaker Mr Kol Preap, the founder and executive director of Transparency International Cambodia.

The event will examine the key issues facing integrity and anti-corruption over the coming decade, and is open to the public.