Greens want Labor to implement federal ICAC before October budget, prepared to back Helen Haines bill

Finn McHugh
By Finn McHugh
Updated May 25 2022 - 7:12am, first published 7:00am

The newly-powerful crossbench is flexing its muscles, urging Labor to pull the trigger on Helen Haines' anti-corruption model before the October budget.

New Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has pledged to implement a robust watchdog by the end of the year, and may need support from the largest crossbench in Australian history to implement it.

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A new poll also suggests a huge majority of Australians view a federal anti-corruption commission as among the most critical items in the new regime's inbox.

With Labor yet to unveil its own plan, crossbenchers are calling for it to adopt a plan "ready to go" before Treasurer Jim Chalmers hands down a budget in October.

Under a proposal from independent MP Helen Haines, introduced to the Senate in 2020, the commission would expose politicians to public hearings and be able to initiate its own investigations.

Adam Bandt is prepared to back the Haines model, saying he 'doesn't care' whose name is on the bill. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Greens leader Adam Bandt said the party, which made gains in both houses on Saturday, is prepared to back Haines' model to ensure oversight of the budget.

"Our preferred model ... has a lot in common with Dr Haines'. We don't mind whose name is on the bill, as long as it is a watchdog with teeth having the powers set out in the Greens legislation," he said.

"We'll work across Parliament to get a federal watchdog established quickly, and ideally before the new government starts spending money in its first Budget."

The Coalition's position under presumed leader Peter Dutton is not yet known, as the party reckons with a bruising wipeout of its moderate wing partly driven by anger over integrity.

But without its support, Labor will be forced to negotiate with a progressive bloc - including independents and the Greens - holding veto power over legislation in the Senate.

Helen Haines' model has crossbench support. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Independents in both houses, including likely senator for the ACT David Pocock, have already thrown their support behind Ms Haines' model.

And Independent MP Zali Steggall, who seconded the bill in 2020, said the model could be practically implemented and enjoyed "broad support" from integrity experts.

"The work has already been done. It's ready to go," she said.

"Australians have demonstrated their strong sentiment for an ICAC with teeth, and Helen's bill could deliver one within months."

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A YouGov poll conducted in the week before the election revealed Australians are strongly in favour of a suite of measures designed to increase transparency in government, including an anti-corruption commission.

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Just under 80 per cent were in favour of the move, while also reporting clear support for a ban on misleading advertising (85 per cent), making minister's diaries public (68 per cent), and limits to spending on political advertising (67 per cent).

The Liberal Party is facing a reckoning after a disastrous performance at Saturday's election, seeing a host of moderate MPs blasted from office as voters aired frustrations over climate change, integrity, and the treatment of women.

The Coalition broke an election promise to implement a federal ICAC before the election after its proposal, panned as a "toothless tiger" by integrity experts, was sunk.

Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison railed against public hearings during the campaign, claiming they created "kangaroo courts" destroying reputations before findings of corruption were made.

His commission would have exempted politicians from public hearings, only investigated corruption rising to criminal conduct, and be unable to initiate its own investigations.

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Finn McHugh

Finn McHugh

Federal Political Reporter

Finn McHugh has been federal political reporter for The Canberra Times since July 2021. He joined the Canberra Press Gallery in 2019 where he was executive producer of Sky News's AM Agenda, before joining NCA NewsWire as a federal political reporter. He has previously interned at the Kuwait Times.