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After Scott Morrison walked away from a 2019 election promise, Labor is hoping to capitalise by saying it will achieve by the end of this year what the PM failed to do in three years, if it wins government.
In 2018, Mr Morrison gave a press conference declaring that he believed establishing an integrity commission to oversee federal politics was "absolutely central ... to the proper functioning of the successful modern democracy in which we live."
He went to the last federal election promising to deliver one.
Today, he is singing a very different tune after failing to table legislation for a federal integrity commission during a full term of government.
Mr Morrison flagged this week that he has no intention to introduce an integrity commission after the model proposed by his government – which would have effectively been unable to investigate politicians – was widely criticised.
Labor, meanwhile, hopes to capitalise on the strong community support for a federal ICAC by ratcheting up its promise.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese says he will legislate a federal anti-corruption commission by the end of the year if he wins government on May 21.
Labor's proposal would have powers lacking in Mr Morrison's, including holding public hearings of politicians, retroactive powers and the ability to act on public tip-offs.
Mr Albanese said electing a Labor government was now the only way to ensure it would happen.
"Mr Morrison has delayed and obfuscated for over three years. And then this week it became clear he has absolutely no intention of honouring his promise to deliver a national anti-corruption commission at all," he said.
"So the question for Mr Morrison is: 'Why do you fear an anti-corruption commission? What is it you're afraid they will find?'"
Scott Morrison blasted for integrity backflip
On Saturday, Mr Morrison appeared unperturbed on the campaign trail by the growing chorus of criticism about him walking away from the promise to boost integrity in federal politics with an independent body.
On Friday, The Sydney Morning Herald ran a rare front page editorial titled; "Morrison says he has ‘honoured his proposal’ for a federal ICAC. He is wrong".
The paper blasted the PM for offering up "a series of wafer-thin excuses for this failure" and argued his approach to the issue "raises serious questions about his understanding of transparency and honesty in government".
Its sister newspaper in Melbourne, The Age, also ran an editorial on Good Friday under the headline: "Morrison’s rejection of an integrity commission a blow for our democracy".
Experts back integrity body with public hearings
While Mr Morrison has labelled NSW's ICAC a "kangaroo court", experts have backed a model which would host public hearings, something the Coalition government is opposed to under its model.
"I'm very critical of some of the ICACs, particularly in NSW," Mr Morrison said on Saturday.
"I don't think that's what we need."
The Centre for Public Integrity said a federal model would be ineffective without public examinations.
It pointed to the fact the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption had only held 42 public inquiries despite nearly 1000 private examinations between 2012 and 2020.
"Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Public hearings expose corruption, and many investigations would not be successful without them," director Geoffrey Watson said on Friday.
"Far from overuse, NSW ICAC holds public hearings only in a fraction of its investigations when it is in the public interest to do so."
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