‘Bill Shorten is no warrior’
LABOR today backed creation of a national anti-corruption agency to counter concerns Bill Shorten said are corroding confidence in public institutions.
The issue was bigger than Labor vs Liberal, Mr Shorten said in an address to the National Press Club, and should have the urgency of national security efforts.
It is likely Labor would have the support of the Greens and a majority of cross bench members and senators.
But any chance of a Government/Opposition joint effort was sunk before the Opposition Leader had said a word of his speech.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull savagely attacked his rival in pre-emptive comments, telling reporters the Labor leader's credibility on the issue was in tatters.
"Bill Shorten is no anti-corruption warrior," said Mr Turnbull.
Mr Shorten pledged a Labor government he led would create a National Integrity Commission modelled on state anti-corruption bodies.
He told the NPC: "This question is bigger than me versus Malcolm, bigger than Labor versus Liberal - this is about restoring confidence in our democratic system and our public institutions.
"And we should treat this mission with the same seriousness as national security.
"Because the most corrosive sentiment in democracies around the world is the idea that politicians are only in it for themselves. And that's simply not true."
He said in a statement a commission would "resolve the gaps and inconsistencies in the current framework and be designed to ensure the highest standards in public administration".
"If the Liberals and Nationals want to work with us to get it done sooner, be my guest. This is not about partisanship - this is about trust," Mr Shorten said.
He was not aware of any corrupt conduct and would have reported it if he were.
"I'm doing this because I want to restore people's faith in their representatives and the system," he said, calling for "real courage and for politicians to show "we are not feathering our nests".
The proposed commission would resemble state-based bodies such as the Independent Commission Against Corruption of NSW.
It had to be "independent and well-resourced, secure from government interference".
Mr Shorten said it would have "a broad jurisdiction, effectively operating as a standing Royal Commission - with all those investigative powers - into serious and systemic corruption in the public sector.
"The Commission will also have the discretion to hold public hearings, when it considers this to be in the public interest."
It would have one commissioner and two deputies appointed by the Parliament on a bipartisan basis, each serving one fixed, five-year term.
The Commission would make findings of fact, not law, and then refer them to the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions, if appropriate.
Mr Turnbull said the Government was still considering recommendations for an anti-corruption unit, pointing to existing scrutiny by the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Commission of Law Enforcement Integrity.
"Bill Shorten's credibility on the question of corruption is pretty tattered," Mr Turnbull told reporters.
"This is a guy who has done everything he could to prevent the corruption in the union movement, corruption between unions and business being exposed.
"He fought tooth and nail to oppose the Heydon royal commission into trade union corruption. We saw his own union, the AWU, has been shown up with several shocking examples including a number of senior officials of the AWU have been identified, and the CFMEU above all.
"But he also did everything he could to prevent the Parliament passing legislation to establish the Registered Organisations Commission whose duty is to ensure that unions are run transparently and honestly, and for the benefit of their members, not engage in corrupt practices.
"Bill Shorten is no anti-corruption warrior."