Federal Parliament - Commonwealth Integrity Commission

02 December 2021


Dr ALYIt's the final sitting week and the final sitting day for 2021. I came here—trekked across the country to Canberra—in the hope that I would be able to debate issues that were important to my community in the electorate of Cowan, not least the issue of a federal integrity commission. I've disclosed in this place before that my husband has had a long career as a public servant in corruption prevention at the state level. He and I often talk about how astounding it is that my state colleagues—state members of parliament and state public servants—can be investigated and held to account but there is nothing to hold me to account. There's nothing to hold anyone here in this place to account because of the lack of a federal integrity commission.

So I came to Canberra in this final week to debate these issues and was very much looking forward to seeing the much-promised federal integrity commission proposal that the government has been talking about for over 1,000 days. Instead, the Prime Minister, who said that the government needs to get out of people's lives, introduced a bill that this government had the gall to title a voter integrity bill.

Now, Deputy Speaker Zimmerman, don't get me wrong: I'm very happy that this bill has been defeated not just because it wasn't needed because it's sought to address a problem that didn't exist; and not just because that bill would have had adverse impacts on people in regional communities, on First Nations people and, indeed, on people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities—people like my parents and me who migrated in the 1960s and seventies and were forced to anglicise our names and now hold different forms of identification in different names. That bill would have had an adverse impact on people like that, and not only because that bill would have prevented people from participating in democracy, as is their right, as citizens of Australia.

I have to say: I find it the highest form of hypocrisy that a government that refuses to scrutinise its own integrity would dare to suggest that the integrity of the people they are elected to serve needs to be scrutinised. I find that incredibly hypocritical.

As I mentioned, it's been over 1,000 days since this government promised a federal integrity body and, to be honest, it's an abject failure on the part of this government that we still don't have one before the House which we can debate, which we can consider and hopefully deliver to the people of Australia. We cannot retain, regain or rebuild the trust in our political institutions in the absence of an effective federal integrity body. And, by effective, I don't mean a wishy-washy model that proposes that members of parliament have to refer themselves for investigation.

Over the past few years, we've seen sports rorts. We've seen pork-barrelling at an incredible rate. We've seen questions around the integrity of individual members of parliament. We've seen robodebt. We've seen a minister forge a document in order to attack a local mayor. We've seen a former Attorney-General refuse to disclose the source of $1 million worth of donations—

DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Zimmerman): Order! The member for Cowan, I think that that was an unparliamentary remark and I'd ask you to withdraw it.

Dr ALY: I withdraw, Deputy Speaker, but can I ask which remark you were specifically referring to?

DEPUTY SPEAKER: When you referred to a minister and documents.

Dr ALY: I withdraw, Deputy Speaker. We've seen these things, but we have not seen any accountability—none.

The citizens and voters of Australia don't deserve to have their integrity questioned. They deserve a government that will act with integrity. They deserve a government that will bring on what this do-nothing Prime Minister won't do—that is, a federal integrity body that is effective, has teeth and means that we are under the same level of scrutiny as state members of parliament who are investigated by state bodies.