Independent Broad‑based Anti‑corruption Commission Committee: strengthening Victoria’s key anti‑corruption agencies?

EXTRACT FROM PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES HANSARD

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

 STATEMENTS ON REPORTS

Independent Broad‑based Anti‑corruption Commission Committee: strengthening Victoria’s key anti‑corruption agencies?

Mr WELLS (Rowville) — I would like to rise to speak on the report of the parliamentary Independent Broad‑based Anti‑corruption Commission Committee titled Strengthening Victoria’s key anti‑corruption agencies?, which was tabled this morning.

In December last year the Special Minister of State, Gavin Jennings, introduced the Integrity and Accountability Legislation Amendment (A Stronger System) Bill 2015 into Parliament. The bill aims to strengthen Victoria’s integrity system and respond to issues that have been raised about its operation. At the time the bill was introduced, the Victorian government also noted that the proposed legislation was the first in a series of intended reforms. Further reforms will take place over 2016–17 with the aim of continuing to strengthen the Victorian integrity system.

This report follows the introduction of the bill. It examines the current Victorian integrity system and considers issues which have been raised by the Independent Broad‑based Anti‑corruption Commission (IBAC), the Victorian Inspectorate and other key stakeholders such as academics, the Law Institute of Victoria and the Accountability Round Table.

The committee benefited from the considered advice, evidence and suggestions of a wide range of experts and interested parties that are involved in the integrity systems in our state and across the country. I would like to thank all those who gave their time to assist in the committee’s work. There was a wide range of information and insights provided to the committee, and it was important that we read and understood this information to understand the complexities around the current legislation and what the government was proposing.

In addition to this the committee travelled to Brisbane to attend the Australian Public Sector Anti‑Corruption Conference on 18 and 19 November. That was an event hosted by the Crime and Corruption Commission in Queensland and the Independent Commission Against Corruption in New South Wales. We attended that for a couple of days, but as well we visited the Crime and Corruption Commission in Queensland. It was well worth our while looking at the legislation that was already in place in Victoria, comparing it to what Queensland had and to the proposed changes that were going to take place.

The issues which have been raised with the committee canvass a wide range of areas within the legislative framework and offer suggestions about how the system could be improved. The committee found that many of the issues which have been raised have been addressed by the proposed legislation. It was also informed of areas which would require further investigation or where further improvements to the integrity system could be made.

Accordingly the committee has made 13 recommendations to the Victorian government aimed at assisting the further enhancement and effectiveness of the integrity system here in Victoria, which should be considered in the ongoing review over the next two years. Some of the areas that we were looking at were examining the criteria for IBAC to conduct a public examination of witnesses; the issue of whether the offences that fall within the definition of ‘relevant offence’ which trigger IBAC jurisdiction should be expanded; providing IBAC with a power to park or suspend the resolution of a complaint or notification for a reasonable period of time; the issue of whether IBAC should be provided both additional powers to obtain evidence from individuals who are the subject of criminal charges and so‑called follow‑the‑dollar powers — and obviously there was a strong push for the Auditor‑General to have those follow‑the‑dollar powers which have been in the mix for a number of years — and also the issue of whether any further clarification should be given to the role of the Victorian Inspectorate in respect of its oversight of the issuing of witness summons by IBAC.

Throughout this process the committee identified a number of issues that it also intends to investigate further this year. From the outset I thank my committee colleagues: the member for Footscray, who was deputy chair, the member for Prahran, the member for Gippsland South, the member for Mordialloc, and Simon Ramsay and Jaclyn Symes, members in the Legislative Council, for their cooperative and bipartisan approach to the preparation of this report and their involvement in the committee. I also thank and express sincere gratitude to Sandy Cook, the executive officer, Kirstie Twigg, the research officer, and Stephanie Dodds, the administrative officer, for their hard work — especially their hard work over January when most people are on leave. I extend my sincere gratitude to them.