By Tanya Plibersek

28 October 2020




SUBJECT: National Integrity Commission.
MURRAY JONES, HOST: It's 4CA look over the last couple of months we've had some interesting things come out. 10 times the market value for Badgery's Creek. That's a lot of money that's gone astray. Of course Daryll McGuire and the New South Wales Premier, there's been a few issues there with ICAC, sports rorts, and of course examples of pork barreling from all sides of politics and some of the issues that we're dealing with on a daily basis that has, you know, I guess some concerns. Let's talk a little bit more about the Commonwealth Integrity Commission that was going to be set up by the current Government, but because of the pandemic it's been a little slow this morning. Let's find out some more from somebody who actually starred on Q&A on the ABC on Monday night and made quite a mark actually, Tanya Plibersek. She's the Shadow Minister for Education and Training. Good morning Tanya. How are you today? 
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: I'm terrific Murray, and it's always a pleasure to talk to you. 
JONES: You as well. Difficult subject though, you know corruption, it really undermines the electorate's faith in the whole system including politics, in a lot of ways. The pandemic's been important but I would suggest that this Commonwealth Integrity Commission is equally as important Tanya.
PLIBERSEK: It's really important and we've been talking about this for years now Murray. It is really no excuse for the delays. What we've found out in the last couple of weeks is that the Government has had draft legislation since December, so they could release that legislation. People could be looking at it, thinking about it, talking about it, debating it now, to make sure we get this really important reform right. And I think it's a bit rich really for Scott Morrison to say that he couldn't do it because of COVID-19, because of course you expect a government to be able to do more than one thing at once. Of course dealing with a pandemic is absolutely vital. But at the same time as they've been doing this they have managed to set up a student cheating integrity body in Melbourne, during the height of COVID. And we've just found out this week as well that they're spent a million dollars of taxpayer funding on market research to work out how to best flog the budget with a $15 million advertising campaign. So they're able to do all of that work, but they weren't able to set up a National Integrity Commission. It just doesn't wash and I think what most people realize is that the reason that the National Integrity Commission hasn't been set up is because this Government doesn't want it. And you mentioned that big land rip-off where the Government's paid $30 million for a block of land that they themselves valued at just $3 million. So there's the airport land rip-off. Water buyback scandal. There's forged documents. There's branch stacking with taxpayer funds. There's sports rorts, you know the infamous sports rorts programs and there's a bunch of jobs for mates and all of these things should be properly investigated. Taxpayers should know that their Government is completely above board and at the moment, I think there's a lot of questions to answer. 
JONES: At the end of the day purely the savings of ensuring that we don't have this corruption, chances are that would be enough to basically pay for a lot of this commission at the end of the day anyhow.
PLIBERSEK: Absolutely and corruption is really bad for individuals. You don't get a fair go, if there's some inside running if you're a mate of the Government you get the best contracts and you get the best jobs and so on. That's bad for individuals, but it's also bad for our whole economy. Business doesn't do well in an economy where there's corruption. So there's really strong moral and ethical reasons to get this right. We want people to have faith in their democracy but there's also strong economic reasons to get it right.
JONES: And certainly that faith you know, I won't identify any particular country in any particular election, but, you know just the state of the world and the way that we are at the moment with social media, I guess misinformation of facts is something that we're dealing with on a daily basis. Coming from the top like that in a position where it's actually taking money from the electorate, in a lot of ways that's actually more serious than even the misinformation you'll find on social media these days?
PLIBERSEK: Well it all goes together doesn't it Murray? You actually need people in public life for the right reasons. You need them working for their citizens, for their constituents, not to line their own pockets. And to do that you need strong institutions like an Integrity Commission, like a strong National Audit Office, which was rewarded for discovering this airport land rort rip-off. They got rewarded by having their funding cut. You also need really strong independent media and so cuts to the ABC are a problem. But also we've seen about 200 newspapers and other small media organizations wrap up over the last year. They've either merged or they've had to cut their paper version. That's a real problem for our democracy. When you don't have that scrutiny and you don't have those independent voices.
JONES: Well as we ramp up this morning with the Commonwealth Integrity Commission, which you know has been basically at least the pathway’s been established by the current Government. If Labor is in power, what would be the scope on, I guess what would that CIC actually look like well? 
PLIBERSEK: I tell you it wouldn't be the toothless tiger that the Government is proposing. At the moment what they're proposing is the Integrity Commission you have when you don't want to have an Integrity Commission. It wouldn't be able to act on referrals from whistleblowers. It wouldn't be able to initiate its own investigations. It wouldn't be able to hold public hearings. It wouldn't even be able to make a finding of corruption. We need to do much better than that and what Labor committed to at the last federal election was a strong, independent, properly-resourced National Integrity Commission that will be able to get to the bottom of these sorts of allegations of wrongdoing.
JONES: Interesting stuff, always great to talk to you as well and compared to the weather you're probably having in your part of the world, I think you wish you were here. There's no doubt about that.
PLIBERSEK: Oh I often wish I was in Cairns Murray, don't worry. It's bit gray and a bit chilly down here in Canberra at the moment. 
JONES: Well, I'm not going to make you any more jealous, but look always great to talk to you. She's the Shadow Minister for Education and Training. Tanya Plibersek, have a great day.