Crime and Public Integrity Policy Committee: Annual Review - 23 October 2015

Wednesday 10 February, 2016

Mr TARZIA ( Hartley ) ( 11:46 :35 ): I rise to support the report of the Crime and Public Integrity Policy Committee, the Public Integrity and the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Annual Review, as recently adjourned.

I note that this committee has been in operation for a short while now and that we are starting to see some fruit of the committee. In speaking to the annual review, obviously there are a number of recommendations in that review. I would like to speak a little bit to some of the recommendations in the tabled report.

Recommendation 1 is that section 46 be amended to insert responsibilities for a person to conduct reviews into the commissioner or his or her staff regarding abuse of power, impropriety, maladministration, invasion of privacy and other improper conduct. I support that recommendation and certainly the reasoning put forward by the committee.

I also support the recommendation involving establishing a one-stop shop model to receive, assess and allocate matters relating to public integrity, as well as the reasoning put forward by the committee. It certainly makes sense to cut out that extra layer of bureaucracy if it is not required. That came through well and truly as a recommendation and I absolutely concur with that as well.

Recommendation 3 pertains to police powers and ICAC investigators. There was a recommendation suggesting that the Attorney-General investigate the retention of police powers by ICAC investigators, especially the power of a general search warrant. I also support that recommendation and the reasoning put forward by the committee.

In regard to the Whistleblowers Protection Act, there was a recommendation, if I am not mistaken, that it should be amended as part of the work being done to achieve consistent public integrity legislation. Again, I support that recommendation. The Police Ombudsman should, arguably, not have the power to determine the external reviews into its own agency. I think it goes without saying that, when it does have the power to determine reviews into its own agency, that could potentially raise a conflict down the track. So I concur with recommendation 4 and with the general work to make sure that there is consistent public integrity legislation in that light.

Recommendation 5 relates to section 39(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 1991, and 'relevant review authority' could mean the Ombudsman. Again, I would be happy to support that recommendation and the reasoning put forward by the committee. By the way, if you have not read the report, Deputy Speaker—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Are you still speaking to the committee's report?

Mr TARZIA: Absolutely, I am still on the committee.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Did you endorse it?

Mr TARZIA: Yes, I did endorse it, and I am endorsing it in the house. It is important that members on both sides of the chamber stand here and that we support the findings of our committee. It is good reading, and we are very proud of our efforts so far. Not all of us wanted this committee, and not all of us wanted these acts, but my learned friends on the other side have come around and they concur, they agree, that transparency is a good thing. It is excellent that they have finally come around. There is also a recommendation in regard to—

The Hon. S.W. Key interjecting:

Mr TARZIA: As the baby of the house, Deputy Speaker, I ask for your protection.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I would like everyone to stop interjecting and I would like you to continue your speech, please.

Mr TARZIA: With respect to recommendation 6 and the legislative framework regarding complaints about police misconduct and corruption, the recommendation is that that be simplified. It is my view, whilst I do agree with the recommendation, that it does require further consideration and, perhaps, another day we should certainly flesh that out. In terms of the powers legislated with respect to the police, arguably we need some more work there to ensure that there is enough scope for them to handle sensitive matters. You have to be very careful when the police are compelled to release evidence of a sensitive nature, so I will perhaps draw the attention of the house to that on another day for further debate.

Recommendation 7 relates to the Minister for Local Government reviewing the Local Government Act and that the minister consider the recommendations of the Ombudsman and ICAC regarding section 263B and section 264. I would certainly support heavily the recommendation and the reasoning put forward by the committee there, as well as recommendations 8, 9 and 10. I agree wholeheartedly that the Civil Liability (Disclosure of Information) Amendment Act should be started sooner rather than later.

I would also agree wholeheartedly with recommendation 11 that section 24 of the ICAC Act be amended so that the commissioner may refer a matter to the inquiry agency without further oversight. In regard to the audit of government agencies being undertaken to determine how 'minor' misconduct and maladministration is addressed across the state and how public servants and agencies determine whether a complaint is forwarded to the Office of Public Integrity, I also wholeheartedly agree with that recommendation as put forward by the committee.

I did not want to speak for a long time, but I am proud of this first report. It has certainly highlighted some small wins. By all means, though, we have not got to the bottom of all the corruption in South Australia, but I think that the committee is doing good work. We have also engaged not only a number of well-read academics but also high-ranking public officials, from the judiciary, the police and other aspects. It is a committee that should continue for transparency in South Australia, and so I have no hesitation in commending the review and the report to the house.