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Keeping Them Honest - a book

To the Editor,


An election issue promised last time which hasn’t been kept is a national integrity commission. The marketing department is making plenty of noise but integrity or climate change isn’t on their playlist.

Much of the noise relates to the short term and a fistful of dollars. Little if any discussion about community trust in our institutions which has been in serious decline.


Books I usually read are received at Xmas, birthdays and fathers day. The weekend newspaper book reviews is the executive summary way to read vicariously. However now and then a review requires further research.


“Keeping Them Honest” is one of those books.

It explains what we need to do to expose political corruption and restore trust.

Authors Stephen Charles a former Judge of Appeal in the Supreme Court of Victoria & Catherine Williams research director of the Centre for Public Integrity

to quote the SMH review “do not mince their words in this scathing critique of the federal government’s failure to deliver a national integrity commission,.”.


A long list commences with bugging of the East Timor cabinet building and the disgraceful behaviour handed out to the whistle blower and his legal representative Bernard Collaery.

If this is how Australia treats friends in the neighbourhood it is understandable that it was an easy decision by Solomon Islands to sign a cosy agreement with China.

(note to marketing department; don’t upset Tasmania or New Zealand or... )


The chapter on The Sports Rorts resonates for us in Eurobodalla. “Around $100 million of taxpayer’s money’s was thrown at marginal electorates,often on projects of no or little intrinsic merit, to bolster the Coalition’s electoral chances. Meanwhile sporting groups that wasted long hours in the hope of winning grants, and should have been chosen on merit, received nothing.”

When the scale of this rort was exposed I felt for parents involved with kids sport who slaved for long hours across kitchen tables with incomprehensible bureaucratic applications forms. When really they should have been told they were in the wrong coloured electorate, don’t waste your time and don’t bother!


It’s clear that the promise of a national integrity commission was never ever going to be fulfilled with so many skeletons in the cupboard.


For those that get the feeling things aren’t quite right I suggest visit your local bookshop (Moruya is a beauty) read the covers and table of content of “Keeping Them Honest"

Guaranteed to have you reaching for the credit card.


Ross Hayward

Broulee

Keeping Them Honest

The case for a genuine national integrity commission and other vital democratic reforms

By: AO Charles, Stephen Charles QC, Catherine Williams A revealing and compelling case for a strong national body to expose political corruption, uphold accountability, and restore trust - and why the country needs it now.


Over the last few years, instances of the federal government spending taxpayers' money to gain improper political advantage in elections have continued, with many hundreds of millions of dollars being spent in the worthy-sounding Community Sport Infrastructure Program (aka the Sports Rorts) and the Urban Congestion Fund (the Carpark Rorts). As Stephen Charles writes, these electorally targeted pork-barrelling exercises are better understood as political corruption, which can take many forms but essentially involves dishonest conduct that undermines trust in our democratic political system.


Keeping Them Honest points to the crucial absence of a federal integrity commission. Victoria has its own Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC), and NSW has its Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), but there is no comparable body at the national level that exposes corruption in government and public administration, and that holds wrongdoers to account. While in 2020 the federal government announced legislation for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission, Stephen Charles argues that its insipid terms would protect - rather than expose - ethical breaches by federal politicians.


About the Author


After a distinguished career at the Victorian Bar and as a Judge of Appeal in the Supreme Court of Victoria, Stephen Charles AO, QC, is now a board member of the Accountable Round Table and the Centre for Public Integrity. He has been for many years a tireless advocate for the creation of a federal anti-corruption watchdog.

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