When it comes to cleaning up our democracy and restoring trust in our political system, the Greens have set the agenda and the standard.
That’s why we:
- Established an ACT Integrity Commission to investigate and expose corruption
- Are tackling shady lobbying through electoral donations reform
- Proposed successful Freedom of Information (FOI) laws to shine a light into Government, and
- Established Officers of the Parliament independent to Government.
Investigating and Exposing Corruption – an ACT ICAC
In 2018 the Greens realised our commitment to you at the 2016 election to establish an Independent Integrity Commission in the ACT.
Our ACT Integrity Commission will:
- Cover all public officials and parties delivering contracted work or services on behalf of government
- Have oversight over MLAs, MLA staff and Judicial Officers
- Have the power to make findings of fact that serious or systemic corruption has occurred
- Be able to look back at historical incidents from the start of self-government in the ACT, and
- Have the power to hold public examinations.
While both the major parties initially baulked at the idea of an independent commission with real teeth and investigative powers, the Greens put this issue on the agenda at the 2016 election. Soon after, the other parties came to the table.
After the election, we made sure that establishing a Commission was a key item in our Parliamentary Agreement with Labor, and during 2017 and 2018 Shane chaired the ACT’s Select Committee to examine the best model for the ACT’s Commission. Now that the legislation has passed and the commission will be up and running in July 2019, the community can have greater confidence that government and public service decisions are being made in the best interests of the people of the ACT.
Electoral donations reform
Political decisions should be informed by the interests of people in our community. Those with power, money, or prestige should never have special influence.
That’s why the Greens have worked hard to remove vested interest from our decision-making bodies by reforming electoral donations laws.
Through our 2012 Parliamentary Agreement, we made sure that no party in the ACT can accept a donation from a property developer, although we wanted the definition of a “developer” to be wider than the major parties want it to be.
On other occasions, though, the Greens have been the only party to stand up for a democracy free from vested interest. In 2015, the Assembly voted to remove the $10,000 cap on donations to political parties. I was the only member to vote against these disingenuous laws, which give big business more opportunity to influence political decisions.
Unfortunately, both major parties still accept donations from corporate entities that we don’t think is acceptable – including clubs that have poker machines. We think that the public can only have true confidence in our political system when corporations no longer wield special influence over politics. I will not be satisfied until that outcome has been achieved.
Shining a light into Government
Freedom of Information Legislation
In any strong and healthy democracy, government information must be easily accessible and widely available. That is why the Greens have made sure that the public are able to access government information easily – to narrow the chasm between government action and public knowledge. After all, we can only form accurate judgments about government action if we have all of the necessary evidence.
To achieve these goals, through the 2016 Parliamentary Agreement the Greens brought some of the most advanced freedom of information legislation in the country to the ACT, which commenced in January 2018. We implemented an open-access scheme, which requires governments to proactively publish and disclose various government reports and information. As a result, minister briefs, question time briefs, estimates, annual reports briefs, and minister’s diaries will need to be published after five years. Previously, such information was only available through lengthy freedom of information requests.
When introducing this legislation, we also strengthened the power of the ACT Ombudsman to protect our democratic system. If government agencies reject freedom of information requests on public-interest grounds, their decisions will now be subject to the scrutiny of the Ombudsman. The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal is now also empowered to facilitate further review processes for freedom of information requests.
The public can be more confident that their democratic representatives and institutions will remain accountable to those they represent. No longer will essential information be hidden.
Holding Government to account
Officers of the Parliament
Politicians passing laws must be independently scrutinised to ensure their actions and decisions are in the interest of the people and compliant with our laws. This principle is a cornerstone of democracy. Officers of the Parliament – independent agents given formal power to provide such scrutiny – are essential to maintaining this level of accountability in government.
For this reason, Shane Rattenbury MLA made sure, through the 2008 Parliamentary Agreement, that the ACT would have their own Officers of the Parliament. In 2013, the Ombudsman, Auditor-General, and Electoral Commissioners were made fully – and formally – independent. We recognised them as Officers of our Assembly, meaning they answer to the Parliament, not a particular Minister.
The Officers are also appointed by the Speaker, not the Executive, who must be satisfied they are experts in their field. These measures further protect the Officer’s independence.
Maintaining trust in our political systems is crucial for democracy to flourish. But for that to happen, decision-making bodies must take responsibility; and ensure they remain accountable to the people they represent. The Greens – by establishing the Officers of Parliament – have helped keep the Assembly accountable to the people of Canberra.