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  • Writer's picture2022 Global Voices Fellow

Australia’s National Anti-Corruption Commission - not just a ‘Kangaroo court’.

By Niamh Wilkins, Curtin University, OECD, 2021

Niamh Wilkins is studying a Bachelor of Laws and Commerce, Marketing at Curtin University. Her policy focuses Australia’s National Anti-Corruption Commission - not just a ‘Kangaroo court’.

Executive Summary

Corruption: The abuse of entrusted power for private gain (Transparency International, 2023).

The WA Inc. Royal Commission. The Fitzgerald Inquiry. Operation Credo. These are only three examples of investigations into alleged corrupt activities that have ruffled the Australian public’s feathers: and their subsequent trust in the government of the day. Since 2012, Australia’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) score has fallen from 85 to 75, indicating an obvious decline in the trust of Australia’s public servants (Transparency International, 2022). In 2018, a pre-election poll conducted by Griffith University and Transparency International found that 85% of voters thought at least ‘some’ federal MPs were corrupt. This number remained unchanged in 2022, where the ABC’s election data software ‘Vote Compass’ indicated that 85% of Australians believed that corruption was an issue within Australia (ABC, 2022).

Corruption is pervasive and divisive. While many vulnerable societal groups will suffer from inefficient or underfunded public resources, others will thrive from receiving lucrative government contracts and grants, as well as favouritism by policy makers. Thus, corruption encourages conditions where conflict is more likely to occur, fostering animosity between groups and eating away at the rule of law (Transparency International, 2022). This is even more dangerous in countries where the gulf of corruption exacerbates the horizontal inequalities that already exist between religious, ethnic and other socio-cultural groups (Cederman et. al., 2011). Moreover, where trust in government declines, the private sector is likely to become more risk-averse; delaying investment, innovation, and employment decisions that are otherwise necessary to prompt competitiveness and economic growth (OECD, 2013).

While each Australian State and Territory has a commission dedicated to integrity, corruption, and/or crime within the public administration, their powers and investigative status vary greatly. On 30 November 2022, the National Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2022 (Cth) (NACC Act) and National Anti-Corruption Commission (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Act 2022 (Cth) were passed by Australian Parliament. Together, the Acts provide for the establishment of a National Anti-Corruption Commission (NAAC), an independent watchdog that can impartially investigate cases of corrupt conduct and corruption issues by Australian public officials, ultimately holding all working within the Commonwealth public sector to account. While the NAAC is yet to be established (and is planned for mid-2023), a comparison of other corruption commissions and review of the NACC Act leaves some areas open to potential scrutiny.

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