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Canberra Today 18°/21° | Monday, January 24, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Why is the PM dodging the corruption promise?

Cartoon: Paul Dorin

“Why is the conservative federal government so afraid of delivering on its election promises of a Federal Independent Commission Against Corruption? If they’ve done nothing wrong, they have nothing to fear,” asks political columnist MICHAEL MOORE. 

“IF you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear”. How often have I heard this refrain from conservatives seeking to increase the powers of police? 

Michael Moore.

So why then is the conservative federal government under the leadership of Prime Minister Scott Morrison so afraid of delivering on its election promises of a Federal Independent Commission Against Corruption? If they’ve done nothing wrong, they have nothing to fear.

ACT senator Katy Gallagher tweeted: “We could’ve had a National Anti-Corruption Commission in place today if the Morrison government senators had allowed debate”. The tweet included a video of her speech in parliament in which she accused the conservative senators of opposing “moves to bring on a bill, standing by Scott Morrison’s 1077-day-old broken promise”.

In politics there are basically three options in dealing with issues. The first is to take strong action, support or implement. The second is to take whatever action is needed to oppose it. The third, and most common, is to delay. That is, say yes, no or delay, normal options used constantly by politicians.

The reason for delay is usually self-evident. As in the case of the federal anti-corruption commission, the Prime Minister needs to be seen to support an approach that delivers transparency and integrity, but he really doesn’t want one.

Senator Gallagher argued in the Senate regarding “this eight-year-old, tired government, there are plenty of reasons that they do not wish to debate this issue today, or any day”. She was speaking on the second day of the last sittings for this year.

She cited “the litany of scandals, rorts, waste and mismanagement that this government has presided over”, all of which should have been investigated by an ICAC. Examples given included the Western Sydney Airport land rip-off, and the “pork and ride” scheme that ensured public money was funnelled by the Treasurer into seats that assisted the government’s campaigning intentions.

Senator Gallagher pointed out that the Treasurer of the time provided four of the car parks next to urban railways that would suit his own political ambitions. 

“That’s the Treasurer”, she added, but “we know the Prime Minister had his hands all over sports rorts and car park rorts”. The government used the Urban Congestion and Building Better Regions funds and “crafted the way that this money gets used for political purposes, appropriated for political purposes and used for political purposes”.

Here is the nub of the problem. The use of taxpayers’ money for political advantage has become more and more embedded in Australian politics and needs to be rooted out. Once called pork barrelling, it is nothing more than corrupt behaviour.

Ken Behrens can be proud of Katy Gallagher who served as Chief Minister and then Senator, and has continued her dedication for more than two decades of commitment to better the Australian Capital Territory and to better Australia for all Australians.

The attack that Senator Gallagher launched appeared initially to be focused on a failure of senators to act. However, the focus moved quickly to the Prime Minister and his personal failure in delivering on such an important promise. This is the same Scott Morrison who told Sky News that he had never lied in public life. It does raise the question as to what he might consider a lie. 

Does a broken promise fit the category? Or failure to deliver on a promise after more than a thousand days? What about delivering on an anti-corruption commission but ensuring that it lacks the teeth to be able to investigate the sort of rorts that Gallagher touched on? And all indications are that the rorts she mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg.

The Prime Minister has indicated that the buck stops with him. However, Senator Gallagher pointed out that the way he presided over these rorts was to ensure “ministers are rewarded for the misuse of money like this”. She added: “When ministers sacked amid scandal get recycled back into the cabinet, is it any wonder that they do not want a debate about a national anti-corruption commission?”

In the meantime, the ACT Integrity Commission has yet to bring down a single report on corruption. The website shows Investigation Reports – coming soon, and Special Reports – coming soon. Where is the delay in this case?

Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health. He has been a political columnist with “CityNews” since 2006.

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Ian Meikle, editor

Michael Moore

Michael Moore

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