Tim Storer Independent Senator for SA
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Parliamentary Transparency Charter

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On Tuesday 2 April, Senator Storer will use a Senate motion to introduce a “Parliamentary Transparency Charter” (attached) to improve the integrity of, and public confidence in, our national government.  

The Charter contains seven key reforms which Senators voting in favour of the motion will be agreeing to pursue. 

If passed by the Senate, the motion will also be considered by the House of Representatives.

Senator Storer said:

“With scandal after scandal involving corruption, misuse of public funds, political donations, unregulated lobbyists, and attacks on whistle-blowers, it’s no wonder public confidence in government has rarely been lower.”

“Under the current arrangement, if an Australian political party receives millions from powerful donors in the lead up to an election we wouldn’t even know about it until nearly four months after election day. How is that OK?”

“We need a step change in the way politics is done in this country, and improving the transparency of government is a critical first step. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as they say.”

“If any political party or independent is not committed to these common-sense reforms, then the public should know before they cast their vote on election day.”  

Serena Lillywhite, CEO of Transparency International Australia, said:

“Trust in government is at an all-time low. Our research found 85% of Australians now think at least ‘some’ federal politicians are corrupt, and over the past seven years Australia has slipped 8 points in Transparency International’s global corruption rankings.”

“We can do better. Transparency and better systems of accountability are essential foundations for a healthy and fair democracy. We have everything to win from a better, fairer, more accountable and more transparent system of government.”

“Senator Storer’s Parliamentary Transparency Charter is a strong contribution to this vision.”

Senator Storer provided the following comments on each of the transparency charter reforms:

 

National Integrity Commission

“Independent oversight of the conduct of public officials is vital for identifying and preventing corrupt practices.”

“Recent scandals regarding Federal Government tender processes, such as the Paladin affair and the HelloWorld scandal, exemplify why a national body which can investigate allegations of corrupt practice is necessary.” 

Real-time disclosure of political donations above $1000

“With political donations increasingly impacting the outcome of our elections, it is more important than ever for the public to know who is donating to parties and candidates in real time.”

“It is no longer acceptable for disclosures to be published 24 weeks after polling day, and annually in non-election years. Nor is it acceptable to have a disclosure threshold of $13,800 and to not aggregate multiple donations from the same source.”

“Queensland has a system of disclosure which requires any donation over $1,000 to be disclosed within 7 days. If it can be done at the state level, it can be done at the federal.”

Enhanced Freedom of Information arrangements

“Public access to information about government decisions and activities through freedom of information laws are essential for holding governments to account.”

“Australia’s FOI regime has been eroded over many years. FOI refusals are at their highest level since records began in 2010-11. More than 2,000 FOI requests have taken three months longer than the statutory time frame to finalise.”

“We must act to turn this around.”

Enhanced whistleblower protections

“Whistleblower protections are essential to ensure those who wish to take action against corrupt, illegal or unethical behaviour are guaranteed legal protection from retribution.”

“Further reform is needed to consolidated the whistleblower protection regime and enhance its protections.”

Overhaul of lobbyist rules

“The ability for special interest groups to lobby those in power without public oversight contributes to growing public distrust in our parliamentary system.”

“The current regime has no independent oversight, very limited enforcement measures and a large number of lobbyists are not bound by the code of conduct because they are ‘in-house’.”

“The US and Canada both have statutory regimes for lobbying which bind both third party and in-house lobbyist, so it can be done.”

Enforceable rules for Parliamentarians

“Our democratically elected leaders must be held accountable through a standard of conduct to ensure there are real consequences for politicians whose behaviour falls below that which the public expects.”

“Grattan Institute found 8 examples since 2011 of cabinet ministers taking lobbying roles within their ministerial portfolio within 18 months  of retiring from ministry with no punishment, breaching the Ministerial Standards. No punishment was imposed in any of these instances.”

Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner

“An independent Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner must be established to oversee the actions of federal parliamentarians, particularly for breaches of the parliamentary conduct standards, falsehoods in political advertising, and breaches of lobbyist rules.”

“ASIC has oversight of private sector leaders in their compliance to director’s duties. This would merely be extending the same level of regulation to the public sector.”