NSW Young Liberal President Alex Dore has a terrific piece in the Sydney Morning Herald today criticising moves to grant increased powers to the Independent Commission Against Corruption:
…it makes sense to reconsider ICAC’s structure and reach, but time and time again ICAC has sought to do the opposite. Rather than work within the confines of its jurisdiction, it has sought to expand it.
Earlier this year, it sought to argue that all sorts of acts – for example, lying to a public official – should constitute “corrupt conduct” and therefore fit within the jurisdiction of ICAC to investigate.
It took an appeal by the eminently capable Margaret Cunneen for the NSW Supreme Court and the High Court to reject ICAC’s overstep. How many others could command Ms Cunneen’s intellect, resources, and guts to successfully do the same?
“[ICAC’s interpretation] would also enable the ICAC to exercise its extraordinary coercive powers (with consequent abrogation of fundamental rights and privileges) in areas ranging well beyond the ordinary understanding of corruption in public administration,” read the majority High Court judgment.
But this defeat, and the corollary legal costs, has done nothing to dent ICAC’s ambitions. This week, the state government has given ICAC the power to launch criminal prosecutions for common law offences by issuing a court attendance notice on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions. It insists that it is simply restoring powers rejected by a local court judgment and that it can already do so for statutory offences.
In a liberal democracy, conservatism demands that institutions that have served us well be protected: the rule of law, including procedural fairness, is amongst them.
One of the great things about Australians is our healthy skepticism of any institution which gains too much power, and if we’re honest with ourselves, isn’t that exactly what ICAC has become?
Read the full article here.