MS PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (16:19:30): I rise to speak on the Integrity and Accountability Legislation Amendment (Public Interest Disclosures, Oversight and Independence) Bill 2018, and I am still considering where I am going with this bill. I am pleased to support many parts of this bill, and I am still questioning in my mind some other parts of the bill. This bill is improving whistleblower protections and expanding the scope of the Ombudsman to really follow the money in publicly funded bodies. We are increasingly contracting private organisations and non-government organisations to conduct the work of government, particularly in service delivery, so I am very pleased to support enabling the Ombudsman and IBAC to investigate that more fulsomely—to follow the dollar, as they say—in a much more effective way. When a bill is named ‘Integrity and Accountability’, how can you not support that? Of course that is what we want from our government. Certainly as the Reason Party of course we want integrity and accountability. We do consider ourselves a party of integrity. In fact that is why we have introduced two motions already. One was about the government responding to e-petitions so that we could see more government engagement with the community and more community engagement with the government. It is why we have put forward a motion to permit a citizen jury to review the 2018 election, so that rather than the people who got elected reviewing the election we get the people who were taking part in the election—who were voting—to review how they felt the election process worked. We saw last year with the Electoral Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 passing that there were caps introduced to stop political influence by donations. I think again this is what the public wants to see from us. They want to see transparency. They want to see integrity, accountability and transparency in our government and in this Parliament. I look forward to possibly seeing a spending cap that was also put into the legislation through an amendment that I made that again will stop this spend to the bottom; the endless, horrendous, expensive advertising; and the cost to the community of putting up with millions of dollars being spent on trying to influence a vote—a vote, I might add, that people must cast. We have compulsory voting, yet we still spend millions of dollars. In other countries where they spend similar sorts of money they are trying to get people to vote, not just to vote for one person or another. I am very supportive of the protections for whistleblowers and enhancing the reach of IBAC. We need to do something, because the public is losing faith in us. Their level in trust in government, in Parliament, in the processes and in politicians themselves really needs to be improved. It is at a very low level. I was fortunate enough to be part of the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer that was released a couple of weeks ago. Australians do not trust governments very much at all. In fact less than 50 per cent of Australians trust their government. That is a terrible figure. I will admit it is a little bit up on last year, but last year we were at the bottom, and there are not many other countries that are worse than us. There is Russia and Spain—there are a few—but we are down at the bottom on the trust barometer. Mr Jennings: At least we’re free to say it. Ms PATTEN: I will take up that interjection about being free to say it. Mr Jennings is absolutely right; the citizens who have the most trust for their governments are from China, the UAE and Singapore. Mr Finn: If you don’t trust the government over there, they shoot you. Ms PATTEN: That is right. Mr Gepp interjected. Ms PATTEN: Yes, the freedom to speak against our government is one of those wonderful freedoms—and certainly all of us have probably received daily expressions of displeasure with the work that we do here—but we do need to work out ways to improve trust in our community. Where I struggle with this bill is the changes to the public examinations. I am struggling with this. Certainly I appreciate Minister Jennings and the work of his office in explaining this to me and talking me through this. I just cannot quite see what is broken and needs to be fixed in this area. I appreciate that the term ‘exceptional circumstances’ might be a difficult term to quantify, but I am not aware of when there has been a problem. I am trying to find the problem that this bill is trying to solve. I do note that the IBAC Commissioner, Robert Redlich, warned against these additional limitations, and I find his statements very powerful in where I am trying to come to with this bill. He said: … the only reason I can see why anyone would want to impose this level of limitation is to appease a particular interest group—a powerful interest group … That is compelling coming from the Commissioner of IBAC. I understand that the argument is that this new requirement will better protect the rights and welfare of individuals. I did hear Mr Melhem using the example of former Premier Greiner as someone who struggled after being exonerated in similar proceedings in New South Wales. I struggle to see how ex-Premier Greiner has struggled. He seems to be doing very well actually. I do think that the more transparent we can make our government procedures—the way that we are seen to have integrity, the way we have these oversight bodies to ensure that we are as honest and as transparent as we possibly can be and that we operate at the highest level—slowly we can start to increase the trust that our community, that our constituents, that the people who elected us here, have in us, because frankly at the moment they do not have a lot of trust in us at all. I will leave my comments there. I support the bill, but I will listen through the committee stage because I am not convinced that we need to further restrict the ability for IBAC to hold public examinations. I am willing to hold judgement on that, but I have not been compelled by any information that I have seen to think that we do need to change and restrict the public examinations.
Integrity and Accountability Legislation Amendment (Public Interest Disclosures, Oversight and Independence) Bill 2018
by Fiona Patten / Thursday, 21 February 2019 / Published in
Share this on: