The new federal integrity watchdog will be able to investigate anyone trying to sway a public official or get them to act dishonestly, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has revealed, meeting a key demand from the crossbench.
The government will release its plans for a National Anti-Corruption Commission on Tuesday after the Labor caucus signs off on it.
While the exact details have been kept under wraps, Mr Dreyfus says it sticks to the design principles Labor outlined more than three years ago, including having a broad remit to investigate politicians, their staff, public servants and contractors, holding public hearings, and operating independently of government.
Crossbenchers released a joint statement on Monday calling for the NACC to also be able to investigate third parties who seek to improperly influence Government decisions and funding.
Mr Dreyfus said on Monday the commission would be given “broad powers to investigate allegations of serious or systemic corruption of or by a public official”.
“The commission will be able to investigate a corruption issue that could involve serious or systemic conduct by any person that could adversely affect the honesty or impartiality of a public official’s conduct,” he said.
Independent member for Curtin Kate Chaney welcomed the change, saying the devil would be in the detail but based on discussions so far, the government’s model seemed to tick all the boxes for her.
“I’m less concerned about meeting some arbitrary deadline of Christmas and more concerned about making sure that it’s a model that the community is comfortable with,” she said.
She expects the next couple of months to bring robust discussions about reaching the best model but said it was clear Australians had voted at the Federal election for a strong watchdog.
“I think a unanimous vote in favour would send a strong message to the Australian public that Parliament has listened and has an intention of changing the standard of behaviour and expectations and rebuilding trust in government,” she said.
The Government is expected to set up a cross-parliamentary committee to examine the legislation after it is introduced on Wednesday, and report back in November before the final sitting weeks for the year.
Crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie said the next 48 hours would be crucial on the issue.
“Unless this thing’s got a set of chops on it bigger than Jaws, I’m not interested in putting it through,” she said.
Greens justice spokesman David Shoebridge said his party didn’t have “absolute red lines” but nor were they going to “just legislate any integrity commission”.
Independent Helen Haines, who drove much of the public discussion and put her own legislation for an integrity watchdog to the previous parliament, said it was urgent the commission be established. Despite reports the government might be lining up a deal with the Coalition, she said she wasn’t worried about the crossbench being dealt out, noting the government had been holding good faith discussions for several months now.