THE Turnbull government has officially rejected creating a national anti-corruption body – a move that has disappointed transparency advocates.
Senate crossbenchers and the Greens have pushed for a body to investigate corruption in the public service and parliamentarians, but neither major party backs the idea.
A government response to a Senate committee inquiry into the Australian Federal Police’s investigation of the AWB wheat for weapons scandal has confirmed the Turnbull government opposes the idea.
That Senate inquiry nine months ago recommended the body be established to “investigate and report on corruption and/or gross negligence within the Commonwealth Parliament and government agencies including the AFP”.
But the government’s written response said it did not agree with the recommendation, citing the 2014 creation of a new fraud and anti-corruption centre.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon slammed the response yesterday, saying it flew “in the face of damning evidence” given to a series of inquiries regarding the AWB scandal.
He said the refusal to act on the recommendation could also have “serious consequences for good government and the health of Australia’s democracy”.
The federal government has a range of bodies to deal with corruption and misconduct. None is tasked to proactively investigate political involvement.
Transparency International Australia chief executive Phil Newman said having different agencies meant a simple investigation could become more complex.
“I can’t say we’re surprised, but we are disappointed,” he said.
Mr Newman said no politician was “immune” to the types of behaviour exposed by a series of state anti-corruption bodies.
“The time is now to act on this, especially given Australia’s slide since 2012 on our international Corruption Perceptions Index.”
Australia fell to 13th place last year – its second year outside the top 10.