A panel of experts has rated the major parties on a key election issue, with one clear winner emerging.
The government has come out behind Labor on plans for a federal corruption watchdog, with an expert panel giving the Coalition a failing grade.
Surveys have consistently found integrity to be a top concern of voters this election following several high-profile scandals at state and federal level.
Both the government and opposition say they will take action in some capacity however so far steps forward have been limited.
The Coalition’s 347-page draft Bill for a watchdog has failed to progress beyond the consultation phase since 2020, while Labor’s one-page plan has broad-ranging intentions but severely lacks detail.
A panel of five law and corruption experts compared the major parties in an article for The Conversation.
Labor emerged as the clear winner according to the experts, with the party promising to establish a national anti-corruption commission (NACC) before Christmas.
The plan earned labor an “A” from Monash University Faculty of Law Associate Professor Yee-Fui Ng.
“Their model is proportionate, balancing the strong powers of the NACC with oversight mechanisms. It has a lower bar of investigation based on allegations of serious and systemic corruption rather than the high CIC threshold of criminality,” Ms Ng said.
The Coalition’s model of a commonwealth integrity commission (CIC) was criticised for being far too narrow in scope.
Professor of Public Policy at University of Adelaide Adam Graycar gave the longstanding plan an “F”.
“Anti-corruption agencies fall into three categories – guard dogs that bite, watchdogs that bark and toothless tigers. The government’s proposed CIC model has been criticised as a toothless tiger,” Professor Graycar said.
Most of the experts agreed the CIC would be limited to criminal investigations, with the high threshold for launching corruption investigations acting as a “shield” for public servants – particularly parliamentarians.
Professor Graycar delivered Labor its lowest mark due to a lack of detail.
“The ALP has a one-page statement that basically says it would do better than what the government proposes,” he said.
The experts also warned against the potential for public hearings being used as witch hunts.
UNSW Law School’s Professor Gabrielle Appleby gave Labor a “B”, saying the scope of the plan was good but the devil would be in the details.
“Its ‘design principles’ for an effective anti-corruption watchdog look promising, particularly in terms of responding to some of the concerns with the Coalition’s model relating to jurisdiction, ability to receive complaints and conduct its own investigations and the power to conduct public hearings in some circumstances,” Professor Appleby said.
“However, as is often the case with these things, the devil is in the detail. And I’d like to see this before I give the ALP full marks for its model.”
Australia has tumbled in the international Corruption Perceptions Index over the past decade, slipping from seventh to 18th since 2012.