The IRU has made a submission to the Attorney-General’s Department’s consultation on the creation of a Commonwealth Integrity Commission.
On 2 November 2020, the Attorney-General published the exposure draft of new legislation to establish a Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC), comprising:
- Commonwealth Integrity Commission Bill 2020 (Cth)
- Integrity and Anti-Corruption Legislation Amendment (CIC Establishment and Other Measures) Bill 2020 (Cth)
The IRU thanks the Attorney General’s Department for the extensive consultation it has undertaken on this matter, including providing multiple opportunities for IRU members to seek clarification and raise issues of concern.
Following those discussions, the IRU has concerns about the proposals as they apply to universities.
- All IRU members are already subject to anti-corruption and misconduct investigations via existing state or territory bodies with very similar remits to the proposed federal body.
- Including Australian universities in the scope of a federal integrity body is an unnecessary double-up of legislation that risks complicating the process of investigations rather than strengthening them.
- The draft legislation contains a substantial inconsistency in the way staff of various bodies are held to account for alleged misconduct, with staff of higher education providers and research bodies subject to a lower investigation threshold than staff of public sector agencies.
The IRU, therefore, urges the Government to:
- remove universities from the scope of this legislation; or
- if it considers that retaining universities in scope is necessary to its broader objectives, amend:
- the legislation to state that universities are obliged to report suspected corruption to the relevant state and territory integrity body, which will then work with the CIC to agree what action is required and which agency will take responsibility. There would be no further obligation to report the same activity to a parallel federal body;
- the wording of Section 17 of the primary Bill to ensure university staff are held to the same misconduct standards as staff of public sector agencies.