100s of titles, one news app for just $10 a month.
Dive Deeper:
Josh Frydenberg opposes independents’ call for public hearings and tip-offs in proposed federal Icac
Treasurer says public hearings would see politicians ‘guilty until proved innocent’, but integrity experts say objections ‘ring hollow’
IBAC lawyer questions evidence of disgraced cop Wayne Dean as investigation into misconduct continues
Disgraced cop Wayne Dean said he didn't know his friend Mick Gatto had a criminal history during an anti-corruption investigation…
Australian election 2022: from anti-vaxxers to revolutionaries, what do the minor parties running for the Senate stand for?
Know what’s behind the innocent-sounding names of more than 30 minor and micro parties running this election, and find out…
VicForests under investigation for potential Privacy Act breach over spying allegations
Victoria's Information Commissioner is investigating whether VicForests breached the state's Privacy and Data Protection Act when it allegedly hired a…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Climate change cutting across political left-right divide, Vote Compass data shows
Climate change is cutting across the traditional left-right political divide, helping explain why teal independents are gaining traction where progressive…
Independent funding for NSW’s Icac rejected on ‘philosophical’ grounds
Premier Dominic Perrottet says the executive should make funding decisions after rejecting new model
Get all your news in one place
Latest National news:
Finally, some respite's on the way for Hunter residents
Almost 120mm of rain has fallen in the city since Saturday
Read news from The Economist, FT, Bloomberg and more, with one subscription
Learn More
'Dangerous' construction industry continues to put workers at risk: WorkSafe
WorkSafe ACT has issued 2132 notices over 1363 workplace visits since 2020.
Election 2022 live: Liberals don’t have ‘a better choice’ than Dutton, Sharma says; at least 38 Covid deaths
Follow all the day’s developments
Food Bites: Help yourself to a tasty deal on International Burger Day
Newy Burger Co is on a mission to raise funds for Amber Hughes, The Table Guest House shares a new…
18 Kids, 1 Teacher Killed In Texas In Worst US School Shooting Since Sandy Hook
The victims were from Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
From analysis to good news, read the world’s best news in one place
More ACT schools switch to remote learning
Some ACT schools are turning to online learning to cope with widespread staff absences.
Greens press for 'urgent tangible action' for First Nations people beyond a referendum
The Greens are set to have their largest ever presence on the Senate and the party will use its newfound…

Ibac frenzy exposes a wide divide between Victorian and federal Liberals

By Benita Kolovos
Robert Redlich, commissioner of Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission
Robert Redlich, commissioner of Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission, says public hearings are the most effective way to build trust in integrity agencies. Photograph: Getty Images

There was a wide divide exposed between the federal Coalition government and Victoria’s Liberal leadership that many people missed this week.

With integrity becoming a key issue in the federal campaign, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, was decrying the prospect of a “kangaroo court” where a premier could be grilled publicly without being accused of corruption.

Meanwhile, Victorian Liberals were angered that the premier, Daniel Andrews, was questioned as a witness – with no allegation of wrongdoing against him made – in two private hearings of the state’s corruption watchdog, the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (Ibac).

According to reports, the premier was interviewed as part of Ibac’s inquiry into an alleged cash-for-access scandal involving a property developer, local councillors and MPs, and another inquiry into alleged branch stacking in the Victorian Labor party and the misuse of public funds.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Andrews.

But it didn’t stop the opposition from trying and failing to pass a motion in parliament – described as a stunt – calling for the Labor leader to stand down.

Before the final vote on David Davis’s motion, opposition MPs and members of the crossbench, including the former Labor minister Adem Somyurek – who himself is being investigated by Ibac – accused the premier of lacking integrity.

“Why won’t he be upfront with Victorians? Because he has something to hide. Because he is a man who is steeped in deception and disingenuity and quite frankly does not believe in what integrity means to a decent society. I find it absolutely extraordinary,” the Liberal MP Georgie Crozier told parliament.

Davis told parliament: “Why can’t he be direct and just say, ‘Look, yes, I’ve been there. There was a matter under investigation, and it was on this date I spent an hour and a half’ – or 2 hours or 4 hours – ‘there under investigation’?”

The problem is, Andrews might well be unable to answer any of those questions without committing an offence.

According to the laws governing Ibac, witnesses can be issued with confidentiality notices, restricting them from speaking about an investigation. In some cases, witnesses are unable to say whether they are even subject to such a notice.

This is done to protect Ibac’s investigations, the safety or reputation of a person or the ability of a person who has been or may be charged with an offence to get a fair trial.

But what it also does, as it has in these circumstances, is allow for speculation to run rife.

Ibac is also hampered by the high bar it needs to meet to hold public hearings. Currently, the commission may only order a person to appear as a witness in a public hearing if it considers there are exceptional circumstances or when it is in the public interest to do so.

The risk of causing unreasonable damage to a person’s reputation, safety or wellbeing also has to be taken into account.

This contrasts with Australia’s oldest anti-corruption body – the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (Icac), which can hold public inquiries, compulsory examinations or both.

Geoffrey Watson, a former counsel assisting for Icac and now the director of the Centre for Public Integrity, described Ibac as a “poor model”.

“Ibac is better than some, and not as good as it could’ve been. The original design was much closer to the NSW model, and Ibac is seriously hampered in its performance by the restrictions on it holding public hearings,” he told Guardian Australia.

The Ibac commissioner, Robert Redlich, told a parliamentary inquiry on Monday that public hearings were “still the most effective way of developing trust in institutions that have to investigate and expose corruption”.

“I don’t think there’s a doubt that by placing matters in the public domain one is best able to ensure that there is a public and executive government appetite to embrace reforms that are exposed when particular wrongdoing is revealed.”

Earlier this month, the Coalition opposition promised to boost both agencies’ funding, by $10m and $4m a year respectively, in a bid to rebuild a “system of integrity and honesty in government”. It also committed to give Ibac broader powers for public hearings.

More public hearings would undeniably stop speculation from running wild. How that balance can be achieved is a matter that Liberals must grapple with at both the state and federal levels.

What is inkl?
The world’s most important news, from 100+ trusted global sources, in one place.
Morning Edition
Your daily
news overview

Morning Edition ensures you start your day well informed.

No paywalls, no clickbait, no ads
Enjoy beautiful reading

Content is only half the story. The world's best news experience is free from distraction: ad-free, clickbait-free, and beautifully designed.

Expert Curation
The news you need to know

Stories are ranked by proprietary algorithms based on importance and curated by real news journalists to ensure that you receive the most important stories as they break.

Dive Deeper:
Josh Frydenberg opposes independents’ call for public hearings and tip-offs in proposed federal Icac
Treasurer says public hearings would see politicians ‘guilty until proved innocent’, but integrity experts say objections ‘ring hollow’
IBAC lawyer questions evidence of disgraced cop Wayne Dean as investigation into misconduct continues
Disgraced cop Wayne Dean said he didn't know his friend Mick Gatto had a criminal history during an anti-corruption investigation…
Australian election 2022: from anti-vaxxers to revolutionaries, what do the minor parties running for the Senate stand for?
Know what’s behind the innocent-sounding names of more than 30 minor and micro parties running this election, and find out…
VicForests under investigation for potential Privacy Act breach over spying allegations
Victoria's Information Commissioner is investigating whether VicForests breached the state's Privacy and Data Protection Act when it allegedly hired a…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Climate change cutting across political left-right divide, Vote Compass data shows
Climate change is cutting across the traditional left-right political divide, helping explain why teal independents are gaining traction where progressive…
Independent funding for NSW’s Icac rejected on ‘philosophical’ grounds
Premier Dominic Perrottet says the executive should make funding decisions after rejecting new model
Get all your news in one place