Quite a few people try to down play the value of corruption inquiries and investigations as being nothing more than a waste of time and money and when you look at the past there is some evidence to support the argument that they are a waste. So let’s look at some of the facts and we’ll find that it paints a different picture especially when you factor in who and what’s now driving the corruption inquiries.
Times are changing fast as we probably have never before had as many inquiries and investigations into corruption happening at the one time. Federally we have one Royal Commission just finished, two Royal Commissions continuing their investigations and a Federal Senate inquiry into the Queensland government and numerous other corruption inquiries. Add that to state inquiries such as the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquires that have resulted in the resignation and/or standing down of 11 (at last count) current members of the state government and we are witnessing the probably the biggest focus on corruption this country has ever seen.
A spotlight on corruption is not enough
Having a spotlight on corruption is a good thing and by itself it helps reduce corruption. But we need to go one step further and have people held to account for corrupt and criminal conduct exposed at inquiries. This is the area that most of the critics jump on to argue that corruption inquiries are a waste of money as they say no one ends up being charged with crimes.
Independent Commission Against Corruption – ICAC
People are charged with crimes and do go to jail as the below figures show. There is also progress being made in the prosecution rates directly related to inquiries and the NSW Government are holding their own review titled “Prosecutions arising from Independent Commission Against Corruption investigations (Inquiry)” to look at ways to improve the investigation to prosecution ratio. (Click here to read more)
ICAC made their own submission to the NSW Government inquiry which reads in part:
“It is pertinent to note at the outset that a number of successful prosecutions have resulted from the Commission’s investigations.”
“As at 20 June 2014, the Commission stated that there were 22 people before courts in NSW as a result of referrals to the Director of Public Prosecutions (“the DPP”) from the ICAC. At that time, the Commission stated that in the last 30 months 35 people had pleaded guilty or been found guilty of charges arising from Commission investigations. Six of those people were sentenced to full-time imprisonment, five have been sentenced to imprisonment to be served by way of home detention, and eight have been sentenced to imprisonment but had the execution of that sentence suspended on condition they enter into a good behaviour bond.”
“Despite some media statements to the contrary, the Commission does not consider that there has been any loss of public confidence in its work as a result of a perceived lack of prosecutions arising out of Commission investigations. The public generally appreciates that the work of the Commission is focused on the investigation and exposure of corrupt practices and that the Commission’s public inquiries effectively achieve that purpose. Public inquiries also fulfil an educative purpose. These features of public inquiries are, in many respects, much more instrumental in addressing the causes and effects of corruption, and therefore contributing to its deterrence, than prosecution through the courts of offences that often fail to adequately represent the nature and scope of the relevant conduct.” (Click here to read more) (To see all the submissions click here)
So people have been charged, there are people in jail and there are many more likely to go to jail. I would suspect this would be a major improvement on what ICAC was achieving a few years ago. Although it must be noted the Director of Public Prosecutions is well over due to put some of the high-profile people and politicians named at ICAC behind bars.
Fitzgerald Inquiry which resulted in numerous criminal charges
The Fitzgerald Inquiry was the last inquiry that I can recall where there were a lot of criminal charges and the jailing of a number of politicians.
“The Commission of Inquiry into Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct (the Fitzgerald Inquiry) (1987–1989) into Queensland Police corruption was a judicial inquiry presided over by Tony Fitzgerald QC. The inquiry resulted in the deposition of a premier, two by-elections, the jailing of three former ministers and a police commissioner who was jailed and lost his knighthood.”
“Bjelke-Petersen himself was charged with perjury in respect of evidence given to the inquiry. The jury in the case remained deadlocked. In 1992 it was revealed that the jury foreman, Luke Shaw, was a member of the Young Nationals and was identified with the “Friends of Joh” movement. A special prosecutor announced in 1992 there would be no retrial because Sir Joh, then aged 81, was too old.” (Click here to read more)
If the former QLD Premier Bjelke-Petersen was charged with perjury then there is no reason why Lisa Zanatta who admitted to committing perjury at the Trade Union Royal Commission cannot be charged with perjury. But that is for Commissioner Dyson Heydon to recommend to the NSW or Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
The Fitzgerald Inquiry was in effect a Royal Commission even though it did not have that name. It is a good reminder of what can happen if an inquiry is run properly.
Win, Lose or Draw – A lot of people have been exposed for who and what they are
One of the key functions of an organisation like ICAC is to shine a light on corruption and social media with its growing power acts in the same manner. And through social media shining the light on corruption anywhere and everywhere prosecutions will follow.
It is social media that is either directly and/or indirectly driving the corruption inquiries by putting pressure on politicians and the public servants who manage the inquiries ands also helping justify the inquiries in the first place. The people running ICAC for example know they either do the job they are meant to do which is investigating and exposing corruption or social media will do it for them.
The results from the various corruption inquiries are already starting to show and will do so even more over the next 6 to 12 months.
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