A retiring Liberal MP who spoke out for the need for a federal corruption watchdog has suggested an imperfect model should be tested rather a continuing a drawn-out political war of attrition over the revived election issue.
Outgoing Bennelong MP John Alexander renewed his call for bipartisan cooperation after Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused on Thursday to commit to establishing an integrity commission in the next term of parliament, saying his government would only revive the issue if Labor backed its current proposal without amendments.
The retiring Member for Bennelong, John Alexander.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer
A national integrity commission ranked as the second most important issue for voters canvassed by independent candidates in Goldstein, Mackellar and Wentworth, where independents are hoping to knock off Liberal MPs, as well as Warringah, where Zali Steggall is campaigning to retain the seat she won from former prime minister Tony Abbott in 2019.
Alexander said the attorney-general and shadow attorney-general needed to get involved, as well as independent MP Helen Haines and outspoken Tasmanian Liberal MP Bridget Archer who crossed the floor in support of debating Haines’ integrity commission model, suggesting they be put “in a room with lawyers” until common ground was reached.
“I don’t think it’s the worst thing if it’s being alleged that it’s very weak. Float it and see where it leaks, and as it leaks, fix it up. It would be good if it’s next term we can get it started,” Alexander said.
North Sydney Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman, who is fighting to hold his seat against independent candidate Kylea Tink, said he would support an integrity commission being introduced to the next parliament, but with caveats that proved unacceptable to Labor in the previous term.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged ahead of the 2019 election to create a Commonwealth Integrity Commission.Credit:James Brickwood
“I don’t want a federal commission that can destroy careers through a public hearing process without the evidentiary requirements you would normally expect in a court of law,” Zimmerman said.
Goldstein Liberal MP Tim Wilson, who is up against independent candidate Zoe Daniel, would not be drawn on whether the Coalition should introduce a plan for a national integrity commission in the next term of government, and challenged the “fake independents” to declare who they would support in a hung parliament.
“Otherwise their word on how they’ll vote in parliament lacks any integrity,” he said.
Liberal MPs Dave Sharma, Jason Falinski and Celia Hammond did not respond to a request for comment, as independent challengers warned concerns over the prime minister’s refusal to commit to a federal corruption watchdog will drive voters away from the government’s former strongholds.
Daniel said only climate change was more important to voters in Goldstein than integrity, and abandoning plans for a national corruption watchdog would spell bad news for the Coalition.
“If there’s one underlying theme when I talk to people, it is that they feel misled and disillusioned, and that promises are made and not delivered,” she said. “The prime minister is taking a great risk by not listening to those people.”
Sophie Scamps, the independent challenging in the Sydney electorate of Mackellar, said voters had the same priorities in her electorate on the northern beaches of Sydney.
“People are just fed up,” Scamps said. “The issue of integrity, and climate change, is why there are so many independents standing up.”
Morrison pledged ahead of the 2019 election to create a Commonwealth Integrity Commission and last year released a draft law for public comment. It was widely criticised for lacking teeth and being overly secretive and a bill was never tabled for a debate.
Steggall said Morrison’s refusal would reinforce his “very low popularity” in Warringah, also on the northern beaches, because people wanted politicians to tackle issues beyond the short-term news cycle.
“My surveys and polling have consistently shown over the last three years that the number one issue for Warringah is climate and environment, and then number two is integrity, and then only third comes economy,” she said.
The Resolve Political Monitor, commissioned by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, in February showed 71 per cent of Coalition voters were in favour of a Commonwealth integrity commission.
Allegra Spender and Kylea Tink, the independent candidates for Wentworth and North Sydney respectively, said a federal integrity commission with teeth was one of their top priorities.
Jacqueline Maley cuts through the noise of the federal election campaign with news, views and expert analysis. Sign up to our Australia Votes 2022 newsletter here.
Most Viewed in Politics
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article