Features Australia

Integrity be damned

Labor’s plans to undermine our Constitution

30 April 2022

9:00 AM

30 April 2022

9:00 AM

Integrity should be an issue in all elections, especially this one. But Labor’s proposal for a federal integrity commission based on the totally discredited New South Wales model has nothing to do with integrity and everything to do with scoring a political point.

Top of the list of truly pressing matters about restoring integrity is for Labor to abandon its disgraceful plan to undermine the Constitution.

Before coming to that, surely Anthony Albanese realises the ICAC model is a monster that has devoured both its creators and guardians? Its fundamental fault is that it poses as a court with public hearings and delivering findings that only a jury should and then only when they are satisfied guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Damaging adverse ICAC findings have been too often made against the innocent, but where there has been a case to answer, the need for a subsequent DPP investigation and a preliminary hearing before a magistrate can be unnecessarily expensive and delay judgment for a decade.

Apart from properly funded investigatory police and departmental units, a more efficient, speedier and fairer method of achieving integrity would be to adopt the American practice of appointing a special counsel to inquire into any truly significant issue. This would require the restoration of that ancient jewel, one which relies on the common sense of the rank-and-file, the grand jury. With no public hearings, the grand jury decides on the evidence whether there is a case to go to an open trial before a judge and jury, a ‘true bill’ or whether there is insufficient evidence (‘no bill’).

What is needed is a serious approach by both sides to improve the integrity of all aspects of the political process. This especially involves, as suggested here, closing gaps against electoral fraud where we are the laggard among Western countries. It would also involve de-incentivising the capture of the principal political parties by small cabals of powerbrokers.

In addition, it should involve fulfilling the constitutional mandate that governments maintain and execute the laws of the Commonwealth. Accordingly, the regulation-making power, so disgracefully abused during the recent pandemic, should be restored to what was once considered proper process even in colonial times.

It should be exercised as the Constitution mandates, by the Governor-General properly advised as to the facts and as to his legal power by normally publicly accessible documents. As lawmaking is a function of both houses, so all regulations should be disallowable by either house.

Some obvious gaps in the relevant criminal law should be closed. The civil wrong of misfeasance in public office, found to have been committed in relation to the live cattle trade, has had the result that the taxpayers will, after a decade, pay massive damages. As a real disincentive, a criminal offence of serious misfeasance should be introduced.

Integrity in the political process should always be under consideration at all levels of government.

And now to return to Labor’s serious lack of integrity in planning to undermine the Constitution. This relates to that tired old canard, an inevitable republic.

There is no integrity in Labor seeking revenge for Whitlam’s dismissal half a century ago by stripping future heads of state of their reserve powers to stop a prime minister from fundamentally breaching the Constitution.

Nor is there any integrity in the plot, unwittingly revealed by a Labor backbencher, to impose a politicians’ republic by circumventing the need for a constitutionally mandated referendum (‘King Kevin through the back door,’ 20 January 2020).

What is making Labor (and Coalition republicans) desperate is the gnawing fear that a second republican referendum is doomed. They should just accept the lesson of Australian history – you only get one chance to win a referendum. When Australians say no, they mean no. There have been nine cases where Canberra has tried, sometimes with as many as five attempts, to persuade Australians to change their minds. All have failed.

The second reason why a referendum is most likely doomed is, as Turnbull famously wrote months before the last one, ‘nobody’s interested’. The latest untainted opinion poll  (noted here on 6 February 2021) confirms a long-term trend. Before dividing as they always do when they see the model, only 34 per cent now support a vague republic. Worse, Republicans have lost the young. Support among those 18-24 has collapsed to 24 per cent.

This explains why, instead of leaving the question to future generations, Labor has become desperate. So, when Anthony Albanese succeeded to the leadership, he found that in his bloated shadow ministry there lurked a ‘Shadow Assistant Minister for an Australian Head of State’.

Presumably, Albanese realised this mouthful exposed Labor to ridicule. Every Labor government tells foreign governments the Governor-General is head of state. The Hawke government even risked a diplomatic incident with Indonesia over this.

Instead of dropping the portfolio, he changed the name to ‘Shadow Assistant Minister for the Republic’.

The fundamental point is that if Labor were to form the next government, in its desperation to achieve something unattainable, their lack of integrity will be monumental.

According to the founders’ pithy description, the exercise of government ‘extends to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution…’

How can an Albanese government fulfil its constitutional mandate to maintain the Constitution if it directs the whole panoply of modern government, a minister, his advisers, media secretaries, highly paid politicised public servants, an army of taxpayer-funded consultants and vast dollops of taxpayer funds, to undermine constantly and with political bias, a fundamental and ancient constitutional institution offering leadership above politics, the Australian Crown?

Moreover, this is the one institution that the people, by a landslide, nationally, in all states, and 72 per cent of electorates, have voted to keep.

Following this divisive agenda blatantly offends the constitutional mandate to maintain the Constitution. This is not an exercise in integrity. This is an exercise in subversion.

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