Appropriation (Parliament) Bill 2020
27th November 2020
Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (14:39): I, too, wish to speak in support of the Legislative Council amendments to the Appropriation (Parliament) Bill 2020. In so doing, I advise the House that I have communicated with my Independent colleagues, the member for Sydney and the member for Wagga Wagga, and they concur with the position that I take here today. It is a shame that members are here today dealing with an amendment to the Appropriations (Parliament) Bill 2020 that would seek a one-off adjustment to the funding of the ICAC that would bring it into line, according to the ICAC, with where it should be based on CPI adjustments over the years. The reality is that we should have addressed this before with the very necessary systemic change that would have reset the bar on the funding for the four integrity agencies and provided a proper mechanism for an arm's-length allocation of funding, away from the elected body and particularly from the Government.
Of course, there was a review of this funding arrangement by the Auditor-General of New South Wales, which was triggered by the Hon. Don Harwin when he wrote and requested that in November 2019. That report, which I have discussed with the Auditor-General in my role as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, made a number of recommendations that I believe are very sensible, but it did not come up with a prescription for the Government. It raised the issue and showed where there were deficiencies in the current model—ones that I think undermine the credibility of the funding arrangements for those integrity agencies. I believe the most important line was very early in the report, which states:
The current approach to determining annual funding for the integrity agencies presents threats to their independent status.
It is an unacceptable position for the Government to not address that in the most sincere way, in not only a bipartisan but multipartisan way. We need to address it. I believe that one sentence succinctly sets the challenge for the Government to address what should have been the situation for funding such organisations as part of their establishment. The previous sentence came from a letter that I drafted and which was sent under the letterhead of the three Independent members to the Premier of New South Wales on 21 October, the day after that report was handed down. I do not intend to cast any aspersions on the intentions of the Government or the Premier. The Premier has actually spoken to me about this and her intention to address this early next year. I believe that is absolutely imperative.
These amendments from the upper House are clearly going to fail here in this Chamber today, no matter the depth of righteous arguments that might come forward from members on this side of the Chamber today who support them. But I say to the Government that the most important thing is to address this. It is not just about the operation per se; it is about the perception. The public of New South Wales needs to have belief in the integrity of the process of the integrity agencies, particularly the Independent Commission Against Corruption. On that basis, I intend to support the Legislative Council amendment by Mr David Shoebridge. However, in my view it is not the appropriate way of addressing this. We need to go back to the start, redraw the line of the funding of these integrity agencies and set an independent process away from the direct remit or authority of the Executive Government.
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