Barton Deakin Brief: Commonwealth Integrity Commission
2nd November 2020
Today, Attorney-General the Hon Christian Porter MP, announced the Government’s commitment to establishing a Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC).
The CIC will be a centralised statutory agency to investigate corruption in the public sector. It will streamline the current multi-agency approach, which is currently spread across eleven Government agencies.
Temporary Expansion of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI)
From the 1st January 2021, $9.9 million funding and 38 staff will be allocated to expand the function of ACLEI. The second phase will be the establishment of the CIC, which will subsume ACLEI when the draft legislation is passed and cover the remainder of the public sector.
Powers of the CIC
The CIC will have a range of powers including:
- Ability to compel people to give sworn evidence in hearings (maximum penalty of two years imprisonment)
- Ability to compel people to provide information and produce documents (maximum penalty of two years imprisonment)
- Ability to search people and their houses
- Ability to seize property (under warrant)
- Ability to arrest people
- Ability to tap phones and use surveillance equipment
- Ability to confiscate passports by court order
Leadership and Operation
The CIC will be led by a Commissioner and two deputy commissioners, one assigned to the public sector division and the other to the law enforcement division. The law enforcement division will be able to accept referrals from the general public. The public sector division will be able to receive referrals from the states and from individuals who are self-reporting.
The Commission will fall within the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s portfolio. It will be oversighted by a new Inspector-General, a new joint parliamentary committee and the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
The CIC will cover 143 offences within its jurisdiction including a number of new offences for corruption, including repeated public corruption.
The draft legislative framework for the CIC comprises two separate bills:
1. Draft Commonwealth Integrity Commission Bill, which will establish the CIC as a centralised agency to investigate criminality and corruption in the public sector.
2. Draft Integrity and Anti-Corruption Legislation Amendment (CIC Establishment and Other Measures) Bill, which amends existing Commonwealth legislation to support the introduction of the Integrity Commission Bill.
The draft legislation will introduce new corruption offences to the Criminal Code Act 1995.
The Government have outlined a national consultation process on the draft legislation. This consultation period will involve round table meeting with academia, stakeholder representatives and other members of society and a series of consultation sessions. Any member of the public will be able to make a written submission until March 2021.
- There will be no public hearings for the public sector. The Commissioner may conduct closed hearings only with relation to public sector corruption.
- There is no retrospectivity for the new offences that will be introduced. The Commission can investigate conduct according to the offence provisions that existed at the time the conduct took place.