Sydney, Australia, Nov 30 (EFE).- Australia’s parliament approved on Wednesday the establishment of an independent commission to combat corruption, one of the biggest reforms pertaining to federal public accountability in the Oceania country.
The body will have “broad jurisdiction to investigate serious or systemic corrupt conduct across the Commonwealth public sector by ministers, parliamentarians and their staff, statutory officer holders, employees of all government entities and government contractors,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said in a joint statement.
“This is a historic day for our Parliament, and the nation,” Albanese added, after fulfilling one of his key election promises.
The establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) was approved shortly after the parliament passed a censure motion against former Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison for secretly appointing himself to five ministries during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This Commission, which will be set up in mid-2023, will have the power to investigate allegations of serious or systemic corruption that occurred before or after its establishment.
It will also be able to refer findings that could constitute criminal conduct to the Australian Federal Police or the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and its findings will be subject to judicial review, according to the statement.
The NACC will hold public hearings only under exceptional circumstances and where it is in the public’s interest to do so.
The legislation for the establishment of the body, which the Senate approved with amendments on Tuesday, also has provisions for the protection of whistleblowers and exemptions for journalists to protect the identities of their sources in corruption cases.
In the last 10 years, Australia has slipped from the 7th to the 18th rank in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index amid a series of political scandals, including the use of helicopters for private purposes, the donation of Chinese money to politicians and the use of large amounts of public money for partisan purposes, among others. EFE