What Would A Federal Corruption Watchdog Look Like & Why Don’t We Have One?

federal corruption commission icac

It’s been a big day in Australian politics: Gladys Berejiklian resigned as NSW Premier following an announcement that she would be formally investigated by the state’s corruption watchdog, known as the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). It’s prompted many, including federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese, to renew calls to establish a federal ICAC, investigating corruption in Canberra and airing all the dirty laundry. But what would that look like, and why isn’t there already one in place?

Back in 2018, the federal government – led by Scott Morrison – announced its commitment to developing and launching the Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC). It would be an independent and specialist centre made up of 172 people tasked with the prevention and investigation of corruption in the Commonwealth public sector, including parliamentarians and their staff.

A federal anti-corruption watchdog could investigate things like Bridget McKenzie and the sports rorts, and whether Angus Taylor misled parliament about the false figures of Sydney Mayor Clover Moore‘s travel spending.


The CIC would apparently have greater investigatory power than a Royal Commission, with the government proposing for the group to have the ability to enter and search premises, hold hearings, obtain surrendered documents and evidence, intercept telecommunications, confiscate passports, and have people arrested.

From what we can see, the CIC plan went through two consultation phases – at the start of 2019, and then again at the start of 2021. In that time, a little thing called the COVID pandemic happened, so it seems things haven’t really progressed beyond the point of public feedback on the proposed commission.

“It is now more than 1,000 days since Scott Morrison promised to have a National anti-corruption body,” Albanese said at a press conference following Berejiklian’s resignation.

“Well, tick-tock Mr Morrison. We need a national Anti-Corruption Commission. One with teeth, one that operates independently of Government, [and] is able to conduct its own inquiries.

“And if you won’t give the Australian people one, a federal Labor government will do just that.”

The Labor Party’s framework for a National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) follows a similar line as a Royal Commission.

It would exist as an independent body to the government, hold public hearings when it’s in the public interest to do so, and make findings of fact and corrupt conduct. It would also work in tandem with the Federal Police and the Department of Public Prosecutions if it found anything that held criminal liability.

The proposed NACC would also be able to investigate allegations of corruption from before it was created, meaning previous governments could come under the magnifying glass after a tip-off.

Albanese also slammed the federal government’s cabinet reshuffling announced today, which happened because former frontbencher Christian Porter failed to disclose where donations to fund his personal defamation case coming from.

“We know that this reshuffle comes about because the person who was supposed to implement a national integrity commission, Christian Porter, failed to do so,” he said.

“Then of course, had to resign over scandals in which he was involved, including resigning as a minister over failing to disclose where donations came from to fund his personal legal case against the ABC.

“The irony of Mr. Morrison announcing a reshuffle to replace Mr. Porter, just minutes before the Premier of New South Wales resigned over an issue relating to the Independent Commission Against Corruption will not be lost on anyone.”

Greens leader Adam Bandt also called for a federal ICAC equivalent, noting that his party’s bill passed the Senate back in 2019 and could be enacted by the end of October – if Morrison wasn’t blocking it.

Yeah, you gotta wonder why there isn’t a federal watchdog yet, huh.