This week in Parliament there have been changes made to the way ICAC functions in South Australia.
These were important changes needed to make our ICAC better. We understand, however, that members and supporters have concerns about these changes and why the Greens supported them.
We completely understand these concerns: various reporting has presented these changes as an erosion of ICAC's powers, but we would like to assure you that this is not the case - if it were, the Greens would never have supported them. We have always proudly advocated for a strong ICAC, both in this state and nationally.
One of the key problems with the way the state ICAC had been established, was that you couldn't talk about it. This meant that issues could not be shared publicly. Many people have known for a long time that there were serious problems with our ICAC, and all of the changes made this week were based on recommendations of the Crime and Public Integrity Policy Committee that spent significant time investigating the need for reform.
What the new ICAC legislation does:
ICAC becomes a Commission, not a Commissioner
The new Bill clarifies that ICAC is an organisation, not a person. Even if the Commissioner changes, the work of the Commission can continue.
Focusses ICAC on corruption
All the powers of ICAC are retained, but those powers should only be applied to matters of corruption. ICAC has extraordinary powers but they’re currently being used to investigate ordinary crimes.
The Ombudsman will be responsible for investigating maladministration and misconduct
The ICAC Commissioner herself has admitted that she has not taken up a single case of maladministration during her tenure. As far back as 2018 the Ombudsman called for these changes, giving evidence before a Parliamentary Committee in support of a model where ICAC deals with criminal corruption and his office deals with issues of misconduct and maladministration.
Establishes an Inspector to watch the watchdogs
It should never be assumed that anyone is incorruptible. ICAC has extraordinary powers, and there should be oversight of the use of those powers. All integrity bodies need to be accountable.
Protects ICAC whistle-blowers
The Bill provides better protections for public officers (including public servants) who wish to raise concerns about the operation of ICAC with Members of Parliament.
Ensures the independence of the DPP (and SAPOL) when pursuing prosecutions
Requires ICAC to advise when an investigation has been concluded
Fairer reimbursement of costs & progress payments for victims
What the new ICAC legislation doesn't do:
No protection racket for and by politicians
Any MP currently under investigation will continue to be. The Bill does not give anyone a free pass.
What was a crime yesterday will still be a crime today
The country members’ travel allowance, for example, could still be investigated – contrary to the current Commissioner’s claims.
We would like to reassure you that in no way was any of this a move for politicians to simply protect themselves. The ICAC has not been gutted. These reforms are aimed at ensuring we have a strong and fair ICAC in our state that is used to actually investigate corruption.
If you want more information and an outline of the Greens’ reasoning for supporting this Bill you can watch Tammy’s speech here, and read her comments as well as the full debate here.
You can read also the report of the Crime and Public Integrity Policy Committee on ICAC here, which provides the background for these changes.
There is also currently a Select Committee on the Damage, Harm or Adverse Outcomes Resulting from ICAC Investigations underway – of which Tammy is a member – and its ongoing work has been crucial to shining a light on some of the serious issues there were with the way ICAC was functioning in our state. You can read more about the work of the committee, and the evidence before it, here.
Thanks for taking the time to read this explainer. If you have any further questions or concerns you can always contact our offices at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope that with this information you can see why as Greens MPs we voted the way that we did. In the end, we are confident that it was the right thing to do.