Australia unveils plans for national corruption watchdog

The Australian government unveiled plans on Tuesday for a federal watchdog to sniff out corrupt conduct and chase down dodgy public office holders, with officials promising it would “restore trust and integrity” to politics.

The “powerful, transparent and independent” National Anti-Corruption Commission would investigate “serious or systemic” allegations of corrupt conduct across the federal government, Australia’s attorney general Mark Dreyfus said.

Targets would include lawmakers, contractors and public servants, he said. 

“The government is delivering on its promise to tackle corruption and restore trust and integrity to federal politics,” Dreyfus told reporters.

The long-awaited legislation, which is to be tabled in parliament this week, mirrors several state-level commissions that have repeatedly revealed political skullduggery, exposed police corruption and even toppled leaders in recent decades.

Claims of a toxic culture in Canberra and the widely accepted practice of funnelling public investment into tightly-contested constituencies — known as pork-barrelling — marked the scandal-plagued tenure of the previous government.

Revelations that former prime minister Scott Morrison secretly gave himself powers in several ministries before losing May 2022 elections stunned politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Dreyfus said the anti-corruption commission would be independent from the government and would investigate tip-offs from the public and heads of departments.

Australians’ trust in politicians is at its lowest point in decades. A Roy Morgan poll last year indicated that people ranked politicians’ honesty and ethics just above advertisers, real estate agents and car dealers.