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Libs could cut deal with Labor on integrity commission

Phillip CooreyPolitical editor

Minor parties and independents in both houses of parliament could be excluded from having any meaningful say on Labor’s proposed national integrity commission because the Coalition is also interested in passing the legislation.

When parliament resumes next week, following the forced hiatus due to the Queen’s death, the government’s priority will be the release on Tuesday of legislation for its proposed integrity commission, which was a core election promise.

The government wants the legislation through both houses before parliament rises for the year on December 1. While it has the numbers to whisk the legislation through the House of Representatives, support from the Greens and key crossbenchers in the Senate is far from assured.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has said previously that the Coalition would back a national anti-corruption commission.Β Alex Ellinghausen

On Thursday, ACT senator David Pocock joined lower house independent Helen Haines in saying the commission should be able to investigate third parties, which is anybody undertaking any sort of dealing with the government.

β€œWe know that a lot of corruption starts with people potentially getting in touch with politicians, whether they’re business people, unions, developers,” Senator Pocock told the ABC.

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β€œThis body needs to be able to actually investigate them and bring them before the integrity commission.”

However, there is limited support for this inside Labor or the Coalition, with MPs in both parties concerned that the commission will be used as a political weapon by the Greens and independents, neither of which will ever form government, to attack and further degrade the major parties.

Some regard the commission as an existential threat if its powers are too far-reaching.

Sources inside the Coalition say there is significant internal in-principle support for the opposition to negotiate with Labor over the commission legislation, rather than allow the Greens and independents to shape it.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, in his first press conference upon becoming leader, committed the Coalition to a national integrity commission, saying as a starting point he supported the model Ms Haines proposed during the last term of government, which would be more far-reaching than that Labor will unveil next week.

β€œThe reason I think it’s more important than ever is that under this Labor government, under the Albanese government, we are going to have a continuation of this unholy alliance with the CFMEU, the ETU, the MUA and the Labor Party,” Mr Dutton said on May 30.

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Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has said the commission will be an independent body able to investigate β€œserious or systemic corruption”.

As The Australian Financial Review reported last month, this suggests the key criticisms of the Morrison government that Anthony Albanese used to build public support for his policy going into the election, may not be in the bailiwick of the new body.

These include the more egregious but one-off episodes of pork barrelling, namely the $100 million in sports rorts grants and the so-called β€œcar park rorts” in which the Coalition government, at the 2019 election, promised $660 million in grants for commuter car parks, many of which were never built, and were concentrated in Liberal and target seats.

The government has consulted Ms Haines and other lower house independents as part of the design of the new commission if only to give them sense of ownership which, in turn, helps them keep their seats and the Liberals out of power.

Phillip Coorey is the political editor based in Canberra. He is a two-time winner of the Paul Lyneham award for press gallery excellence. Connect with Phillip on Facebook and Twitter. Email Phillip at [email protected]

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  • NACC
  • Peter Dutton
  • Anthony Albanese
  • David Pocock
  • Helen Haines

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