INDEPENDENT COMMISSIONER AGAINST CORRUPTION (MISCELLANEOUS) AMENDMENT BILL

Tuesday 18 November, 2014

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (12:16): I also rise today to speak in favour of the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2014. We have seen in the past, as the member for Bragg alluded to, that this government has a problem with releasing information. They have had a problem with shield laws, they have had a problem with whistleblowers protection. It seems to be a government addicted to secrecy.

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (12:16): I also rise today to speak in favour of the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2014. We have seen in the past, as the member for Bragg alluded to, that this government has a problem with releasing information. They have had a problem with shield laws, they have had a problem with whistleblowers protection. It seems to be a government addicted to secrecy.

Although we are supportive of the bill, the ICAC is still the most narrowly focused and secretive in the nation. I will talk a little bit about the reality TV metaphor that the Attorney uses. It seems that the only person to use metaphors better than the Attorney is Shakespeare himself, but I will tell you a little bit about the New South Wales model and how it is working and why we should learn something from our New South Wales colleagues over there.

The Hon. J.R. Rau interjecting:

Mr TARZIA: Yes, the Deputy Premier has made a couple of points in relation to that. I will talk about that in a second. Corruption should always be stamped out. I will give the government some credit; the amendments are important. I believe there are further debates that need to occur and that we could be having about the role of ICAC, because there needs to be more done in this area. As we heard from the Deputy Premier, he said, 'Wait. There's more.' I know that there will be more to come. Nothing would have been wrong with getting it right the first time.

We have a great example working interstate. If we followed through with that example, we probably would not be in this position. In relation to the New South Wales ICAC, premiers have been found out, ministers from Labor have been found out and there is even a Liberal backbencher, I believe, who was recently brought to the attention of ICAC. As at 20 June 2014, 22 people were appearing before courts in New South Wales as a result of referrals to the DPC from the ICAC, and in the last 30 months from 20 June 2014 in New South Wales, in addition to a few cases, 32 people had actually pleaded guilty or had been found guilty of charges arising from ICAC investigations. So, we see in New South Wales that the ICAC is performing its duty; the ICAC is working. It is doing its job.

I note that this bill was introduced on 29 October in response to Commissioner Bruce Landers' annual report and recommendations tabled on 14 October 2014. It amends the ICAC Act of 2012. I would like to reiterate to the house that the proposal for an ICAC was initiated by the Liberal Party, and I thank the tireless member for Heysen for her pursuit of this. We are much better off because of her work in this area to bring this to fruition, because we know that this government refused to have an ICAC for many years.

I understand the Attorney has called the New South Wales model a reality TV model but, as we have seen, that model in New South Wales is achieving results. At the end of the day, if it results in a more transparent, open and clean government, is that not a good thing? Absolutely it is a good thing.

The principal areas of this amendment, as we have heard, are firstly to relax the strictly confidential provisions, which the commissioner has claimed causes some confusion. It is important to listen to the commissioner, and I understand that there will be a new definition of 'publish to allow for communications between two persons'. Fair enough. Another principal area of amendment involves confirming that SAPOL officers, while working for the commission, retain their full powers, including the use of general warrants. Also, there are a number of practical amendments with respect to the inspection and copying of, and access to, documents.

In relation to amending the Crown Proceedings Act 1992 to remove the obligation to give notice to the Crown Solicitor before a summons is issued to a minister, at the moment this is required. The commissioner has said that ministers should be treated the same as everyone else.

The Liberal Party has consistently argued in favour of an ICAC and consistently argued that an ICAC should go further, and that confidentiality requirements at the moment are far too strict, far too severe. I would speak in favour of any act that goes to strengthen the ICAC. As I said, if it results in a more open and transparent government, I would be happy to support any such bill. With those comments, I commend the bill to the house.