Is the ICAC getting out of hand? Critics abuse corruption watchdog role in ousting Gladys Berejiklian
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the sudden death of NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian – and two of her predecessors – shows that the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is “getting out of control”.
The role of the corruption watchdog is under intense scrutiny after Ms Berejiklian resigned last Friday in response to the announcement of a public inquiry into her behaviour.
Ms Berejiklian was the third Liberal Prime Minister of NSW to resign as a result of ICAC investigations, after Nick Greiner resigned in June 1992 and Barry O’Farrell in April 2014.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the death of NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian shows that the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) was “out of control” on Sunrise, while Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon called it “a kangaroo court”.
Gladys Berejiklian announced her resignation last Friday, the third NSW Prime Minister to resign as a result of ICAC investigations, after Nick Greiner resigned in June 1992 and Barry O’Farrell in April 2014.
On Sunrise this morning, Mr Joyce described the ICAC’s investigation as “a bit of a Spanish Inquisition,” and he was backed by Federal Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon, who said the anti-corruption agency’s operations were “a failed experiment.”
“We elect politicians, not bureaucrats, so people have to decide whether they want someone or not,” Joyce said.
“An ICAC gone out of control means bureaucracy reigns supreme and politicians are essentially terrified to do their job.”
Joyce has questioned the process whereby a politician is not told he has been referred to the watchdog and must step aside before proven guilty of any offence.
“Politicians sometimes have to make tough decisions, it’s not that they are corrupt, they make decisions,” he said.
“ICAC’s power is dominated by people who want more power for minority groups against the will of the majority, that’s how I see it.”
Fitzgibbon, who will step down from the federal parliament in the next election, went so far as to call the watchdog “a kangaroo court.”
“I am a strong believer in the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and for many years at ICAC the opposite has been true,” he said.
“If you are referred to ICAC, you are guilty until proven innocent and three Liberal Prime Ministers will testify to that fact.
“None of them have ever had any negative findings against them in the eyes of the law, but they were certainly hung out to dry by what I believe is basically a kangaroo court.”
NSW Health Secretary Brad Hazzard was asked to comment on ICAC’s power at a news conference over the weekend, telling reporters that while the body was needed, there should be a discussion about its effect on removing democratically elected leaders from their homes. office, even if they are eventually acquitted.
“We need an ICAC, there is no doubt that we need an ICAC, but whether it should be closer to the Hong Kong model where these matters are handled behind closed doors until there is actually, certainly, a sufficient case, is an issue I think the community will look at,” he said.
Former NSW Prime Minister Nick Greiner (right) founded ICAC in 1988 but became its first scalp in June 1992
Mr Greiner (right) pictured with fellow Liberal Prime Minister Barry O’Farrell (left), who resigned from office in April 2014 due to an undeclared bottle of wine
ICAC was first founded by the NSW Liberals under then Prime Minister Nick Greiner in 1988 and was initially tasked with exposing scandals related to Prime Minister Neville Wran’s former Labor government after his decade in power.
However, it was Mr Greiner who became the watchdog’s first prominent scalper in June 1992 when he resigned over the offer of a public service job to former Education Secretary Terry Metherell.
Mr Greiner was later acquitted of wrongdoing in the case by the NSW Court of Appeals.
In April 2014, then-Liberal Prime Minister Barry O’Farrell resigned for failing to state that he had received a gift of a 1959 bottle of the Grange Hermitage worth $3,000.
Mr O’Farrell had accepted the wine in April 2011 from Nick Di Girolamo, CEO of Liberal Party donor Australian Water Holdings, a month after taking a landslide Coalition victory in NSW.
It’s not just liberals who have been affected.
In June of this year, former NSW Labor Ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald, and Obeid’s son Moses Obeid, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit willful misconduct in public offices over the allocation of coal licenses on Obeids property in 2008. .
The trial followed previous ICAC investigations into the conduct of Mr Obeid and Mr Macdonald.
Ms Berejiklian’s downfall began with her appearance at an ICAC public inquiry in October last year, where she made the stunning confession about her relationship with former political colleague Daryl Maguire.
The investigation into corruption allegations against Mr Maguire led Ms Berejiklian to reveal that she had a “personal connection” with Mr Maguire after working together for more than 15 years. She said their relationship started in 2015.
The watchdog’s further public inquiry will investigate whether there was any conflict between Ms Berejiklian’s public duties and her relationship with Mr Maguire.
Ms Berejiklian’s resignation on Friday was followed by the resignation of her deputy, Nationals MP John Barilaro, on Monday
More specifically, it will look at its role in awarding or promising grants to the Australian Clay Target Association and the Riverina Conservatorium of Music in Wagga Wagga, both of which were under Mr Maguire’s electorate.
Ms Berejiklian has denied any involvement in corruption related to the subsidies.
Her resignation on Friday was followed by the resignation of her deputy, Nationals MP John Barilaro, on Monday, although the two resignations were unrelated.
Current NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet is expected to be announced as Ms Berejiklian’s successor as NSW Prime Minister after a Liberal banquet meeting on Tuesday.
ICAC – A TIMELINE
1988: The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption has established Liberal Prime Minister Nick Greiner
June 1992: Mr Greiner was forced to resign because of the ‘Metherell affair’. Terry Metherell, a former Liberal education minister, was now an independent in a hung parliament and was offered a job to head the new Environment Protection Agency within the department so that the government could reclaim his Sydney North Shore seat from Davidson. Mr Greiner was later acquitted of wrongdoing in the affair.
2012-2014: Former Labor MP Eddie Obeid appears before the ICAC in a series of investigations into his conduct while holding public office. The findings of the investigation eventually lead to criminal proceedings against Mr Obeid.
April 2014: Prime Minister Barry O’Farrell resigns after it was revealed in an ICAC hearing that he had failed to give up a $3,000 bottle of Grange Hermitage after taking a landslide election victory in April 2011.
October 2020: Gladys Berejiklian appears before ICAC as part of Operation Keppel, corruption hearings in former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire, where she reveals her personal relationship with the disgraced politician.