Integrity commission 'must not ruin lives'

Katina Curtis, AAP Senior Political Writer
Christian Porter says lives had been destroyed by unfair processes from anti-corruption commissions

A commonwealth integrity commission won't be allowed to make public findings of criminality or corruption after a spate of cases where state bodies ruined people's lives, the federal attorney-general says.

Christian Porter outlined several instances where he says people's lives and reputations had been destroyed by findings and unfair processes from state anti-corruption commissions, during a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday.

"This is not to say - and I need to make clear - this is not to say that the problems, failures and shortcomings with state bodies have overwhelmed their utility or their desirability, or the desire of the government to have a body of this type at a commonwealth level," he said.

"But we have to note, understand, and be wide-eyed that there have been problems, they've been real, they've been serious, and they've been multiple."

The Morrison government has promised it would finalise legislation to establish a Commonwealth Integrity Commission by the end of the year, although Mr Porter gave no indication on Wednesday of when that would be ready.

The commission would have two sections: a law enforcement integrity division and a public sector integrity division.

It would have the power to conduct public hearings in its law enforcement division, but the public sector integrity division will not have the power to make public findings of corruption.

Instead, it will investigate and refer potential criminal conduct to the commonwealth director of public prosecutions to proceed through the courts.

Mr Porter said this model struck the right balance between strength and caution.

He took aim at the Australia Institute, which has been a vocal proponent of an integrity commission with broad jurisdiction and strong investigative powers.

A spokeswoman for the think tank said Mr Porter should release his draft legislation for consultation rather than run a commentary on its research.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus described the speech as bizarre, saying he had hoped Mr Porter would have spelled out his plans.

"It's been almost two years since the government claims it started working on a commonwealth integrity commission," he said.

"Given the scandals which continue to rock this tired third-term government, it's clear why the prime minister and attorney-general are not in the least bit interested in integrity."