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Attorney-General’s pledge to fed up voters

Mark Dreyfus has sharpened his pitch for a national integrity commission at the National Press Club.

Mark Dreyfus has sharpened his pitch for a national integrity commission at the National Press Club. Photo: AAP

Australians fed up with federal politics are being promised an anti-corruption watchdog will clean things up.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has used a major speech to sharpen his pitch for a national integrity commission, promising to have it legislated this year.

“The national anti-corruption commission is a nation-building reform that will help restore trust in government and in Australian democracy,” he told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

“Our aim is to create a lasting body, one that not only causes our government to be better, but all future governments to be better too.”

Mr Dreyfus urged people not to lose sight of why an anti-corruption commission was needed, saying politicians had not treated voters with enough respect.

“Promises were made and never delivered. Questions from journalists were treated like an annoyance. Basic standards of accountability were pushed aside,” he said.

“Australians deserve a government that is prepared to be held to account – a government prepared to have wrongdoing exposed, even when there is a political price to pay.”

The attorney-general said the anti-corruption commission’s ability to take referrals from the public, whistleblowers and anonymous sources will ensure its independence.

The commission will also issue a public report at the conclusion of any investigation detailing evidence from both public and private hearings.

“The public can be assured if there is a finding of corruption, they will know about it,” Mr Dreyfus said.

“Ultimately, that is what matters.”

Commissioners will be appointed on merit and must be approved by a parliamentary committee.

They will have fixed terms to avoid fear of political reprisals.

Whistleblower protections have also been promised, as have protections for journalists’ sources.

Mr Dreyfus said further whistleblower and press freedom reforms are on the horizon.

The attorney-general introduced anti-corruption commission legislation to parliament last month.

The bill will set aside $262 million over four years for the independent body to investigate serious or systemic corrupt conduct across the commonwealth public sector.

The coalition has provided in-principle support, but Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is waiting on a parliamentary inquiry to report back before making a final decision.

– AAP

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