ICAC and Other Independent Commissions

ICAC and Other Independent Commissions

(Second Reading Debate, Thursday 13 May, Legislative Assembly NSW Parliament) 

The ICAC and Other Independent Commissions Legislation Amendment (Independent Funding) Bill would create separate appropriation items for four of the State's integrity bodies—the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission, the Electoral Commission and the Ombudsman—ensuring that the Parliament and not the Executive approves their budgets. 

Oversight and integrity bodies should not be beholden to Ministers for funding. Those bodies have powers to investigate Ministers and their colleagues and there is always a risk that a Minister could use budget cuts to hamper an investigation. The existing funding arrangements reduce the independence of those bodies and reform is clearly needed. I support the intention of the bill.

However, the Government tells me that it understands the concerns and is considering the most appropriate funding model to guarantee independence. I am told it will release its plan for reform in August. I will wait to see that plan in light of concerns raised with me about provisions in this bill that would restructure the integrity bodies to make them public service agencies. An outcome of this change is that the Minister, instead of the organisation itself, would appoint the chief executive officer. That goes contrary to the aims of the bill and is a significant concern. Integrity and oversight bodies are fundamental to healthy democracies and I am concerned that any change to their structure requires extensive consultation with the organisations and the stakeholders that use their services. Currently I am not aware of the position of those organisations. I will not support the bill at this stage. However, I agree fully with its intention and reserve my position to support the changes after seeing a detailed response from the Government in August.

Read the full debate HERE

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