Why Australia needs an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)

09 April 2016 12:55 pm

The news broke this week that the Australian Taxation Office is investigating more than 800 high net worth Australians, clients of the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, now at the centre of an unprecedented leak of tax haven records released globally. Mossack Fonseca acted for individuals accused of fraud and embezzlement. It also allegedly lobbied to thwart Australia’s attempts to sign agreements that would allow the exchange of tax information with Samoa, a key tax avoidance jurisdiction. And according to ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston, some cases had been referred to the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce.

That in itself is good enough evidence that Australia needs an Independent Commission Against Corruption.

But there is plenty of other reasons showing why it’s necessary

The corporate regulator, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, is taking Westpac and ANZ to court for rate rigging.

Or consider how Australian company Leighton allegedly hid bribes inside fraudulent contracts in Iraq which is all part of the global oil bribery scandal taking place in oil rich countries.

There are tales of corruption at the Reserve Bank of Australia’s subsidiaries Note Printing Australia and Securency.which paid secret commissions to middlemen hired by the Reserve firms to win bank-note contracts in Nepal and Malaysia, a scandal which continues in the Victorian courts under a cloak of suppression order.

Then we have the allegations about the way the New South Wales Liberal Party concealed the identities of illegal major donors via the secretive Free Enterprise Foundation before the 2011 election that brought it to power.

All of this shows that corporate corruption is rife in Australia.

Is it any wonder Australia is sliding in Transparency International’s rankings?

Clearly, there is a need for Australia to set up a national ICAC and the cross-bench senators are demanding it as part of their negotiations with the Turnbull government over the legislation to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has ruled out setting up an ICAC as has the Labor Party. One might ask why.

At the same time, Labor is now pushing for a Royal Commission into financial services if it wins the election.

Surely a Federal ICAC will take that a step further and create a cleaner Australia.