Left unattended, politics can be a dirty game. I am committed to cleaning up Federal politics by exposing corruption and establishing a Federal Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) to keep the bastards honest. All States and Territories have anti-corruption commissions – the Federal Government is the one exception. This makes no sense at all. Federal politicians, their staff and public servants should all be subject to appropriate scrutiny. We need a strong anti-corruption body, with the investigatory powers of a standing Royal Commission, with proper safeguards to ensure due process and accountability.
I use the Freedom of Information (FOI) system, along with Questions on Notice and Senate Orders of Production of Documents has earned me the title ‘Inspector Rex’ because of my track record for revealing corruption and sneaky plans, including million dollar purchases of ‘ghost water’ in the Murray-Darling and plans to shift 700 SA submarine sustainment jobs to WA. It’s no surprise then that the major parties have opposed my Bill to strengthen Australia’s FOI rules. They don’t want transparency and accountability.
Political donations and disclosure
Political donations are another area in desperate need of reform. I support real-time disclosure of political donations, as well as lowering the disclosure threshold. Currently, donations to political parties don’t have to be disclosed unless they are over $14,500. These rules should be changed so that any donations $1,000 and over must be disclosed in real-time. Federal political donation reform is absolutely essential to clean up our political system from corruption and covert foreign interference.
Mandatory security checks for Ministers
In 2019, I introduced a bill that would make background checks for incoming ministers mandatory. It’s no secret that Australia faces a growing threat of foreign espionage and political interference. Ministers occupy positions of the highest trust within the Australian Government and have access to the most sensitive national security information, yet Ministers are exempt from any security checks. All other Australian Government personnel with access to classified information are security cleared. When it comes to security, the Liberal and Labor parties are insistent that there should be one rule for everyone else and no rules for them. This approach not only puts national security at risk, but also Australian democracy.
Combatting secret foreign political interference
Anyone who works for a foreign government to influence our political processes is required to register and be transparent – but not MPs and their staff. Go figure! Once again the major parties have made the rules to suit themselves. What have they got to hide? I have argued that this exemption must be removed and plans to introduce legislation to force the Government and Opposition to justify their claim for special treatment.
Parliamentary Oversight of the Operations of Australia’s Intelligence Services
There are 10 agencies and 7000 people working in our intelligence services. A multitude of security laws have passed over the last decade allowing government agencies to exercise significant powers over Australian citizens, often in secret. Whilst our intelligence services do critically important work, they are not subject to enough Parliamentary oversight. This needs to change. I have introduced legislation to provide for full Parliamentary oversight over intelligence operations. The Coalition and Labor have refused to support this reform, but I am determined to keep pressing for change.
What can we do?
- Establish a properly resourced Federal Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC)
- Strengthen our FOI laws
- Lower the disclosure threshold for political donations
- Real-time disclosure of political donations
- Make security checks for all incoming Ministers mandatory
- End the exemption for MPs and their staff from the Federal foreign political influence transparency scheme
- Oversight of Intelligence and Security operations by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security