The passage of the law allowing for the creation of an Independent Commission Against Corruption has been hailed as an important step forward by community advocacy group ACT NOW! but the group is warning that it is too early for any celebrations.
"An independent commission is urgently needed to tackle the rampant corruption that is holding back our economy and stopping the delivery of vital health and other services to the people”, says Campaign Manager Eddie Tanago.
"The passing of the ICAC law is therefore an important step, but there is still plenty of work to be done”.
"There will be nothing to celebrate until a fully functioning commission has been established and the first successful prosecutions resulting in senior public figures being put behind bars”.
ACT NOW! says the government now needs to immediately put in place the regulations that will guide the operation of the Commission, ensure it has a generous budget and appoint the first credible Commissioners.
It will also be vital that the ICAC is set up as a truly independent constitutional body but ACT NOW! is concerned about loopholes in the legislation that mean the Commission may end up not being free from political influence.
"The appointment of both the ICAC Commissioners and members of the Oversight Committee will be done by a committee overseen by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition”, says Eddie Tanago.
"This is not consistent with the notion of political independence”.
The Prime Minister will also have an absolute power to block investigations into corrupt conduct where he determines the matters under investigation should be kept secret on the grounds of national security, international relations or the public interest.
“This power should not be exercised by the Prime Minister and should be open to judicial review”, says Mr Tanago.
ACT NOW! has been campaigning for the establishment of an ICAC for the last 10-years and says it is shameful that it has taken so long for the law to be enacted.