Liberal NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton wants the ICAC to be able to initiate prosecutions. Photo: Cole BennettsNSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton has questioned Labor’s commitment to a strong Independent Commission Against Corruption after it decided to oppose proposed legislation granting the watchdog the power to launch prosecutions.
Ms Upton has introduced a bill that she says clarifies the powers of the ICAC and the Police Integrity Commission after two local court judgments questioned ICAC’s powers to instigate criminal proceedings.
The cases involved ICAC’s bid to launch prosecutions against former NSW minister Ian Macdonald and former union boss John Maitland, whom the watchdog has found acted corruptly over mining licences.
In their recent review of ICAC powers, former chief justice of Australia Murray Gleeson and senior barrister Bruce McClintock said the change had merit.
But the NSW Greens and the NSW Police Association said it is a concerning departure from the watchdogs’ existing roles as strictly investigative agencies.
Despite not opposing the bill in the lower house, Labor is seeking to oppose the change in the upper house.
On Friday, Ms Upton said the government had “zero tolerance for corruption in NSW”.
“Labor apparently supported a strong ICAC, but now they don’t,” she said.
But leader of the opposition in the upper house, Adam Searle, said it was “a substantive change” that required debate and the government had given the opposition less than a day to examine the bill in the lower house.
“You are giving ICAC and PIC the powers for the first time as well as extending them to other ‘public officers’, who do not have the right to prosecute,” he said.
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