Time for a predictable, just and independent surveyor of government and politics

This is about Australian politics, so please ignore it if you do not care.

In New South Wales there is a quasi-judicial investigative organ called the Independent Commission against Corruption, or ICAC (which a certain news empire’s rags insist upon calling “Icac” to avoid focusing on the meaning of the acronym). It has uncovered extensive political corruption of both sides of politics. Recently a similar body was proposed for the federal parliament, but was opposed by those who stand to suffer under its regulation and investigation.

I think this is too limited and too open to political manipulation. Instead I think we should refer back to a traditional role, a number of examples of which still exist in Australia – that of Inspector General.

There is an IG of of Intelligence and Security, of Taxation, of the Australian Defence Force, of Biosecurity, of Animal Welfare, and of Emergency Management in Victoria. Each of these, along with a number of Ombudsmen at Federal and State levels. Each does an important job, but the whole thing is piecemeal and uncoordinated. I would like to suggest a general and coordinated law and organisation: A Federal Inspectorate General. As I envisage it. this would be the government investigative and enforcement agency, similar to judicial and police organs, responsible for checking all official and political activity in the federal government and its agencies.

Each ministry and subject agencies would have its own IG, and there would be a Chief IG overseeing the whole organisation, reporting to parliament. The funding would be determined by an external and nonpartisan committee, and the parliament would be forced to make the funds available, by law, based on that committee’s report. No sitting or past members of parliament or any office bearer of a political party could sit on that committee or act as an IG.

The law would make it mandatory for there to be an IG for each ministry and agency that reports to a minister or the parliament. The IG would investigate all activities for any illegal and unbecoming activities by a federal politician or member of the public service, and refer such cases to the director of public prosecutions in the jurisdiction concerned. All finance of politicians that breached the law would be investigated, as would corruption in any part of a government department. This would also mean that if an IG of, say, the security agencies, found that an agency was behaving illegally or contrary to stated policies, they could bring proceedings against the individuals and sections concerned. At present, they cannot, which means that because of secrecy, such acts are never prosecuted.

States should do something similar, and ensure that such bodies are out of the control or retribution of either politicians or other public bodies. But most of all, we need a federal body like an Inspectorate General.

One thought on “Time for a predictable, just and independent surveyor of government and politics

  1. I am currently reading Rebecca Goldstein’s Plato at the Googleplex and it is very interesting how much philosophy impinges on politics. In the states, so many are using their wealth to get power or their power to get wealth.

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