Speech on the Independent Commission Against Corruption Amendment Bill 2016

In Parliament | 16.11.16

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE ( 16:28 ): I will make a short contribution to debate on the Independent Commission Against Corruption Amendment Bill 2016. I was not a member of the Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption Commission, but no-one could fail to witness the corruption earthquake that has hit this Parliament over the past decade. We cannot deny that; we cannot pretend that it has not happened. Extraordinary things are happening on this last sitting day of the year on which we will deal with government business. We cannot and must not look away from the corruption that is eating at the fabric of our democracy. Our community has had enough. We cannot seek to govern without the community's trust, and that trust is at rock bottom.

Over the past decade, this Parliament has brought itself into disrepute. Former Labor Ministers colluded to line their own pockets, and in so doing they disgraced themselves and brought great shame on the party of which I am proud to be a member. Eleven members of the Liberal Party were also caught in an elaborate money‑laundering scheme seeking to gain an electoral advantage by taking illegal donations. These are the uncomfortable truths that we must face. This Parliament has been called the most corrupt parliament in Australia. Yet the Government is today seeking to bypass the law so that the Independent Commission Against Corruption commissioner who has exposed these uncomfortable truths can be sacked. We cannot endorse a proposal that means that investigating and exposing corruption, no matter where it is found, will result in the government of the day sacking the person who found it.

I will be clear about what is happening. We have had meaningful discussions about legislative reform, and it was reform that the Opposition was prepared to support until it saw what was introduced. The changes that the Government introduced in this bill were never the subject of discussion with the Opposition. They were never raised despite the good report produced by the Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC]. The Government is seeking to bypass the appointment of an independent commissioner, and is shooting the messenger because she has exposed some uncomfortable truths.

The Government could secure the Opposition's support for this bill simply by guaranteeing that the current ICAC commissioner will not be sacked before the end of her term. If the Government does that, the Opposition will support the bill. Bipartisanship is always fragile. We must be extremely careful not to lose it, because once it is lost it is hard to regain. Bipartisanship requires all of us to step beyond political goals and to come to agreement about important issues. I can think of few things that are more important than having the trust of the community of New South Wales. That trust has been broken time and again by too many people on both sides of the House.

All of the good work in the committee's report deserves support. It cannot be undermined by what the Government is doing today; that is, including in the bill provisions that will allow for the constructive dismissal of the person who has exposed corruption and who has spoken truth to power. Our community is watching, and it will find us wanting yet again if we support this bill. We will do ourselves a great disservice if we do so. The Opposition cannot support the bill if the good work of reform is thrown under the bus by the Baird Government while seeking to undermine the current commissioner. The Government cannot shoot the messenger; that is not what ICAC was established to do. This report is too important. The Government has undermined that good work by trying to sneak through this bill today, and the Opposition will not support it.