Calls for bipartisan support of integrity commission in the Senate

Mark Dreyfus has the introduction of a federal integrity commission in his sights.

Mark Dreyfus has the introduction of a federal integrity commission in his sights. Photo: AAP

A federal integrity commission is set to become law in a matter of days, with debate on the issue getting under way in the Senate.

A bill setting up the National Anti-Corruption Commission could pass parliament as soon as Tuesday, after the laws were introduced to the upper house.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the long-awaited body would be historic.

“The government’s model for the commission contained in these bills is a strong watchdog with teeth. This body will have the powers of a standing royal commission,” he said.

“Importantly, the National Anti-Corruption Commission will have the necessary powers to root out corruption when it occurs.”

Mr Dreyfus has urged bipartisanship on the bill, calling for coalition support.

The plea follows the opposition moving amendments to the bill, which the attorney-general said amounted to a veto of the integrity commission.

“The government will not be supporting that amendment and, indeed, I would call on the Liberal Party to withdraw that amendment,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

“I would call on the Liberal Party to support the establishment of a National Anti-Corruption Commission, and let’s get on with this task that the Australian people voted for at the last election.”

However, shadow attorney-general Julian Leeser has rejected the claims the amendments would be a veto, labelling the comments as an outrageous slur.

“Our amendments seek to ensure bipartisan support for the commissioner and inspector. The coalition is committed to bipartisan appointments for key positions in the National Anti-Corruption Commission,” he said.

“This is essential to ensuring the appointments do not become a political issue.”

Mr Leeser said coalition changes to the laws would increase integrity and safeguard measures.

“The amendments that we are moving in the Senate are the same ones we moved in the house,” he said.

“The amendments ensure that the commissioner and inspector are genuinely independent, and they support public confidence in the commission.”

Issues have been raised with the integrity body over when it would hold public hearings.

The laws would only allow for such hearings in “exceptional circumstances”, but advocates have urged for more public hearings in a bid for greater transparency.

The commission is set to cost $262 million over the next four years.

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