INDEPENDENT COMMISSION AGAINST CORRUPTION AMENDMENT BILL 2016

16 November 2016

2nd Reading Speech


The Hon. ADAM SEARLE ( 11:43 ): I lead for the Opposition on the Independent Commission Against Corruption Amendment Bill 2016. I say at the outset we will be opposing this appalling legislation and I foreshadow we will move amendments in the committee stage. There are two significant flaws in the legislation. The first flaw, which is fatal to the Opposition’s support for the legislation and, unfortunately, potentially fatal to the effectiveness of the institution of the Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC], is the dismissal of the current ICAC commissioner, which is what passage of this legislation will effect.

That is a theme to which I will return. The second flaw is the provision that requires merely consultation with the chief commissioner in relation to the appointment of the other two commissioners rather than concurrence. This stands in complete contrast with the model put forward by this Government and adopted by this Parliament in the recently enacted Law Enforcement Conduct Commission [LECC] legislation. The Government has given no reason or rationale as to why the three-commissioner model with those safeguards is appropriate for the LECC but not appropriate for the Independent Commission Against Corruption. That is very worrying.

I note at the outset the Leader of the Government in this place and the Premier in the other place attempted to set out a stall about how pro-ICAC the Government is and how it is really in favour of an effective corruption‑fighting body. But unfortunately, they speak with forked tongue, because the measures contained in this bill are guaranteed to undermine not only the effectiveness of but also public confidence in the institution. The Premier and Minister traversed that many aspects of the bill have their genesis in the report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption, handed down in October 2016. A number of the ideas referred to that committee were, frankly, harebrained and dangerous. There is a history of bipartisanship offered to Government by the Labor Party, both when it was in Opposition in the 1990s and now, and there have been efforts in the past by major parties to be bipartisan around issues to do with the ICAC. Opposition members of this committee, of whom I was not one, did work diligently to achieve a cross-party consensus.

The basic new structure proposed for the ICAC—a three-commissioner model—is not opposed by the Labor Opposition. A number of views reached by the parliamentary committee were supported by the Labor Opposition members—for example, that the ICAC staff should not be brought under the government sector employment framework because that would compromise the operational integrity of the institution. That there should be no exoneration protocol and no merit review of ICAC findings because that fundamentally confuses the role of ICAC compared to law enforcement, and criminal law enforcement bodies in particular, were matters pushed by right-wing members of the Liberal Party and elements of the media as things vital to civilise the ICAC. The committee very sensibly did not embrace those measures and they are not in this bill. That is a good thing.

The committee also found that ICAC must follow the rules of procedural fairness during inquiries and before publishing adverse findings against a person. Lawyers will tell you that that already applies to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, but we do not oppose spelling it out more explicitly in the legislation in measures such as new proposed section 79A at page 6, item 10. There are elements listed from the committee report with which, again, we do not take issue. In relation to issuing procedural guidelines relating to public inquiries to promote more fairness, we do not oppose those measures either in the committee report or in the legislation. Of course, the bar rules that apply to barristers who are counsel assisting the ICAC bind them to do those things, so we do not think there is a legislative need but, nevertheless, for more abundant caution, if the Government wishes to spell that out in legislation we do not oppose those measures.

All the ingredients were there for uncontroversial cross-party consensus about changing the Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC] structure, implementing a range of measures designed to promote public confidence in the institution, and enhancing its operations. The seeds were planted in the committee report, and the elements are in the legislation before the House. However, of course, this Government could not help itself. It is still smarting from the findings of Operation Spicer. The venality and spite that infects the right-wing of the Liberal Party has led to the inclusion of provisions that strike at the integrity of the body, its independence, and its future effectiveness. 

I will briefly deal with two provisions of the bill. Proposed schedule 1 [4] deals with existing part 2 of the ICAC legislation and its replacement with a new part 2. It deals with the abolition of the current office of commissioner and its replacement with the new office of chief commissioner and the addition of two other commissioners who will be appointed by the Governor. That change will allow the Government to bypass mechanisms already in the legislation that enable Parliament to remove an ICAC commissioner. I will come back to that. When enacting the ICAC legislation, the Parliament wanted to give the commissioner the same independence as a judicial officer. The legislation provides that during the period of up to five years an ICAC commissioner holds office he or she has the same protections as a judge, and can be removed by the Governor only after an address by each House of the Parliament. 

That provision was included to ensure that executive government, whose workings would, of course, be the subject of ICAC’s scrutiny, did not act arbitrarily. That scrutiny would often be uncomfortable and painful. However, the legislation is designed to ensure that venal governments that find the operations of ICAC inconvenient or politically dangerous do not try to remove the commissioner. Of course, to do so the Government would have to come armed with chapter and verse of the commissioner’s wrongdoings. The Government would have to make its case in this place, in the other place, and in the court of public opinion that the commissioner had somehow been involved in misconduct in office, and had done things that were wrong and/or improper. Of course, the Government has not come to this Parliament prepared to make that case, because there is no such case to be made. Instead, it has taken the extremely dishonest approach of saying, “We are just doing a restructure. We are just abolishing the office.” 

Of course, if enacted this legislation would allow the Government simply to throw the current commissioner out of office at the stroke of a pen, even though she was appointed by Premier O’Farrell and despite that fact that her term of office runs until January 2019. This Government will get to appoint the next ICAC commissioner no matter what happens to this legislation. However, it cannot wait because it is still reeling and smarting from the fact that she has simply done her job. We are not required to like what independent statutory officers do. I am sure that no government likes what the Auditor-General does, and I am sure that at times they have found the operations of the Ombudsman difficult or inconvenient. Of course, that is also true of ICAC. However, this Government has achieved a new low in seeking to take this route to remove a thorn from its side. We have an ICAC commissioner who is vigorous and fearless in pursuing her statutory duty as she sees it. 

If the Government were serious about wanting to make the case that somehow she had done something wrong, it would come in through the front door. Instead, it has resorted to dishonesty. It is hiding its true motivation under the guise of a restructure. It is pandering to the extreme right-wing of the Liberal Party, many of whose members have lost their seats in Parliament and their careers in the ministry as a result of the ICAC’s work. The Government is also pandering to extreme elements of the Murdoch press, which has been baying for the blood of ICAC for the past five years. The Government cannot get over the fact that ICAC is its creation, and that in seeking to do their job successive commissioners have exposed wrongdoing in the Liberal Party and by Liberal Party members, not only individually but also as emerged from Operation Spicer at an administrative and systemic level. There was systematic rorting of the electoral laws. The fact is that this Government has sought—

The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane: Point of order: Interjections are disorderly at all times. I ask that the Hon. Dr Peter Phelps be directed not to interject.

The ASSISTANT PRESIDENT ( Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile ): Order! The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps knows that interjections are disorderly. He will allow the member to continue his speech on this important bill.

The Hon. ADAM SEARLE: The Government did seek bipartisanship on this bill. As I have indicated, many aspects of the bill could be the subject of bipartisan support. Members on this side of the House cooperated fully with the Government in the wake of the High Court ruling in Independent Commission Against Corruption v Cunneen. We were cognisant, as was the Government, of the report produced by former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the High Court, the Hon. Murray Gleeson, and Bruce McClintock, senior counsel. The Opposition cooperated with the Government in the implementation of revised ICAC legislation because it saw the importance of ensuring not only that it kept to the law but also that it was appropriately configured. 

However, as I indicated, the legislation now before the House, with its sting in the tail of abolishing the office of the commissioner, is a tawdry and disgraceful exercise being undertaken simply to sack the current commissioner. The Opposition will not be a part of that. The Government is trying to sneak through this legislation at the fag end of the parliamentary sitting year. It is instructive that it has chosen this week to deal with this legislation. It was only on Saturday that The Nationals achieved their worst electoral result in a safe seat. It is a blow to the conservative side of politics more generally. However, rather than accepting that perhaps it was getting something wrong and, as people have suggested, it has been high-handed, arrogant, and out of touch, instead of being cognisant of the judgement of the community—particularly a community that has resolutely supported that side of politics since 1947, sending only Country Party and Nationals members to this place—it has doubled down on its arrogance by introducing this legislation and seeking to rush it through Parliament. 

Given the significance of this legislation, the Government should have allowed it to sit on the table so that it could be subjected to broad-ranging consultation, which is what it did with the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission Bill. Whatever that bill’s ultimate shortcomings, we could not fault the Government on its consultation. The Opposition had two or three briefings on draft bills, and there was intensive consultation with the Police Association of NSW, the Law Society, the Bar Association, and other stakeholders. That did not happen with this legislation because it is not about proper public administration or protecting or enhancing the Independent Commission Against Corruption. It is simply about saying “Gotcha!” to the institution and to the commissioner, who has caused the Government— 

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: But you are supporting the legislation. 

The Hon. ADAM SEARLE: No, we are not supporting this legislation. I will be very clear about that. The Opposition cannot support this bill because of this Government’s over-reach in seeking to throw the commissioner out of office for no justifiable reason. ICAC has inquired into and reported on the activities of people in my party, and I do not shy from that. The difference between members on this side of the House and members opposite is that we do not seek to attack the law enforcement body. ICAC found members of our party to be corrupt and to have shortcomings in their conduct. Our response is, “Fair enough. We will try to lift our game and root out these people from our party.” What do members opposite do? They attack the messenger and cut off the head of the body that caused them so much grief before the last election. ICAC’s inquiry has cost the Liberal Party a great deal in public funding, and it still causes grief to this day because of the internal ructions in the Liberal Party.

It is not only what we are saying about this legislation. Let us see what other ICAC commissioners have said. Former Commissioner David Ipp said that this legislation would weaken the ICAC and water down its powers, and that it seems designed to get rid of Ms Latham because she had been too independent. He said: 

I think it is a scandalous move. I don’t accept for one moment it makes a stronger ICAC. I think it will be much weaker and make it much more difficult to operate. There will be an inability for it to make quick, strong decisions and there’s simply no need for it, the ICAC has never been stronger. 

A former assistant commissioner of the ICAC, former judge and, in fact, the current chair of Transparency International Australia, Anthony Whealy, said that the legislation would effectively result in the sacking of the commissioner in the middle of her tenure. He stated: 

It’s absolutely stunning that this has happened and there seems to be no justification for it whatsoever. I think it’s very wrong and very harmful and should be very damaging to the Baird Government. 

Mr Ipp also said: 

This has come about after 11 Members of Parliament—

Liberal members of Parliament—

have been forced to resign and after the Obeid inquiry and the Doyles Creek inquiry when corruption involving many, many millions of dollars was uncovered.

… one can only see this—

By which he means the legislation—

as an attempt to protect politicians.

An attempt to protect Liberal Party politicians, that is the real agenda. Mr Whealy noticed that the move in this legislation has followed ICAC’s Operation Spicer investigation into Liberal Party fundraising before the 2011 State election, which ended the political careers of a number of Liberal MPs and the ministerial career of at least one of our colleagues in this Chamber. Mr Whealy said: 

The perception will arise immediately in the community’s mind that there’s a very direct link between the two. It will look like payback from a vengeful government. 

If we read about this in a third world country—a public inquiry into politicians behaving badly, donations being made illegally and secretly, a report published and then the government brings forward legislation to get rid of the head of the organisation which published the report and tries to dilute the powers of that person, you’d say … well, same old, same old, it’s corrupt.

… I’m suggesting the perception in there that is done to weaken ICAC’s power and bring Megan Latham into line so that she doesn’t step in again and offend the politicians. That’s the perception. And it’s a very bad perception. 

It is not only the Labor Opposition saying this is a fundamental attack on the institution as well as the current commissioner, but also two esteemed former judges who have been associated with the ICAC in the past. It is not good enough. The current commissioner has also made a public statement. Her blistering statement is on the ICAC website, and says: 

… the bill represents an unprecedented attack on the independence and effectiveness of the commission as a leading anti-corruption agency. 

She also said: 

The most significant practical consequences of the provisions were not the subject of any discussion or submission before the ICAC Parliamentary Committee (or in any other forum) and find no expression in the Committees report. 

That is important because of all the many issues that were referred by the Premier to the parliamentary joint committee on ICAC and in all the hundreds of thousands of words expended in this report, not once was the termination of the tenure of the current ICAC commissioner ever raised. It is not that the report is silent on the matter—it was never put. Now the Government is disingenuous in saying that of course her position has to be terminated because there will be a restructure, but we would welcome an application from her. That is false; it would not. The truth is, if the Government was serious about her finishing her existing tenure, there would be a transitional provision in the legislation that allows her to serve out the balance of her current term as Chief Commissioner until January 2019. That is the effective and appropriate course of action, and that is the course of action we will be urging on this House in the Committee stage when we discuss amendments. If the Government is serious about bipartisanship that is what we will insist upon. 

The ICAC commissioner also says that the bill should provide that the person holding office as the commissioner immediately before the commencement of the amending legislation is taken to have been appointed for the balance of his or her term as Chief Commissioner. That is what we think would be the fair and appropriate course of action. The tenure and independence of the current commissioner is not about her; it is about the institution. The executive Government has been on the receiving end of painful and inconvenient news about scores of its political operatives in Parliament and its party administration who were being called into public question, public opprobrium, and it has led to the loss of their careers. If the Executive Government can get away with simply cutting down the messenger, it will mean that future ICAC commissioners are likely to not do their job properly because the consequences of doing so will be this kind of authoritarian intervention that is not usually seen outside of other parts of the world controlled by petty dictators and with whom we would not usually want to associate ourselves. This is not only our view. The Hon. Nick Greiner, the former Liberal Premier, who was ultimately a victim of the ICAC, said it well in his second reading speech on 26 May 1988 in the other place: 

I made it clear in my statements before the election that the proposed Independent Commission Against Corruption would be responsible to Parliament and not to the executive Government. The commission can be removed only by the Governor on the address by both Houses of Parliament. 

Greiner’s commitment, when he created the body with the support of the Labor Opposition, was that the commissioner would have the authority, unimpeded by the politics of the day, to inquire into allegations of corruption wherever it occurred and that has been the case—an article of faith in New South Wales politics—for the past 28 years. Bob Carr gave unconditional support to Premier Greiner when he created the body. We have continued to do so during our term in Opposition. It is this Government and the actions of this Government alone that is ending that cross party consensus. 

On 30 August this year, the ICAC released its report on the Operation Spicer investigation, which exposed prohibited donations and the channelling of funds and non-disclosure during the 2011 State election campaign. The ICAC’s findings were adverse with regard to a significant number of Liberal Party members in finding that they acted with the intention of evading provisions of the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act relating to the disclosure of political donations and the ban on donations from property developers. The ICAC found that during November and December 2010, the Free Enterprise Foundation was used to channel donations to the Liberal Party for the 2011 election campaign so that the true identity of the donors was disguised. A substantial portion of the money that was provided by the foundation and used by the Liberal Party in its election campaign originated from donors who were property developers, and therefore prohibited donors, and the Premier resigned. 

The New South Wales Electoral Commission reviewed the matters investigated by ICAC ,and the Liberal Party’s failure to disclose a series of political donations received by the party in 2010 and 2011 resulted in the Electoral Commission ruling that the Liberal Party was ineligible to receive $4.4 million in public funding. After further disclosures from the Liberal Party in 2016, the commission decided that the party was eligible to receive $5.8 million in public funding, but it withheld almost $600,000, being the amount of the donations that the party had accepted illegally. ICAC’s work cost the Liberal Party $600,000, delayed the payment of millions of dollars and ended the careers of many Liberal members and parliamentarians. The only conclusion that one can fairly draw from this legislation that determinates the commissioner’s term of office is that it is political payback. 

Let us look at what the current Premier has said about those matters. The findings show that, at the time, the finance director of the Liberal Party, Simon McInnes, was complicit in seeking to disguise payments from prohibited donors and that the party’s fundraising body, the Millennium Forum, was used to launder banned donations. When he took office in 2014, the current Premier said that he was appalled by the things that had been seen in the ICAC proceedings. He said: 

I don’t care what political badge you have. If you have done wrong and if ICAC has shown you have done wrong then I’m your worst nightmare. 

The Hon.Walt Secord: Who said that?

The Hon. ADAM SEARLE: Premier Baird said that. Today, rather than standing up for a strong anticorruption body, he is actively seeking to knobble it. Anthony Whealy, QC, and others have said that there is a strong perception that these actions by the Government are corrupt. How else can you interpret the nobbling of the anticorruption body by a government seeking to cover up the actions of its party as being anything else? It is simply payback. We see the exposure of the rotten activities in the New South Wales Liberal Party. This Premier simply seeks to take on the commissioner and to terminate her commission, rather than stand up to the corrupt elements in his own party. Either the Government is corrupt or it simply lacks the spine to stand up to those corrupt elements. Whichever is the truth, it brings no credit to the Premier or the Government. They will be judged severely and found wanting in the court of public opinion. 

It is contrary to what the Premier said when he took office, but it is consistent with the inaction of the Premier. In the wake of Operation Spicer uncovering the systematic rorting of electoral funding disclosure laws by Liberal Party members and the party administration, because of the small two-year window in which those offences could be prosecuted everyone who was found to have done wrong got off the hook. When legislation went through this Parliament to provide not only for increased penalties but also longer time frames for the enforcement body—the Electoral Commission—to bring them to justice, we see that a time period is not a substantive part of the law, it is simply a time to bring the prosecution. In the wake of Operation Spicer let us make those acts fall within that expanded time frame. If there is evidence to sustain a prosecution against these people, let them be brought to justice, as the Premier said they would be when he took office in 2014. But members opposite—both here and in the other place—acted to let their buddies off the hook by making sure that the extended time frame did not apply to their wrong conduct.

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: A retrospective clause.

The Hon. ADAM SEARLE: It is not retrospective. A time period is not a substantive element of the law.

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: Extending a time is retrospective. 

The Hon. ADAM SEARLE: It is not a substantive part of the law. You acted to cover up for your mates in this place and in the other place, and it is a low point of public administration as is this attempt to silence the Opposition on this matter.

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: Point of order: The honourable member said: “You attempted to cover up for your mates”. Given that all debate goes through the Chair, that is a reflection on you, Mr Assistant President, and it should be withdrawn.

The Hon. ADAM SEARLE: Mr Assistant President, I in no way intended to reflect upon you. I was reflecting instead on Government members collectively. Let it be clear what I was saying.

The ASSISTANT PRESIDENT ( Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile ): Order! There is no point of order.

The Hon. ADAM SEARLE: We simply cannot support legislation that seeks to turf out the commissioner mid term for no stated reason but simply for doing her job. Those opposite might not like the job she has done, they might be critical but they should be prepared to bring a dismissal motion before the Parliament. They should set out exactly—and in public—what she has done that they disagree with. Instead, they whisper behind their hands in meeting rooms and in cabals in other parts of this building. The Government should level the charge against the commissioner and set out in the light of day—openly and honestly, chapter and verse—what they say she has done wrong. Then let us have a vote of the kind we have had in this place when the removal of judicial officers has come before the House and that is not a party vote or a bound Government versus Opposition vote. Whenever the fate of judicial officers has come before this Chamber, a free vote of the members has always been taken.

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: And how did you vote?

The Hon. ADAM SEARLE: I voted not to dismiss previously. But the point is that it should be a free vote of the members of Parliament, if you are serious about levelling charges against the commissioner.

The ASSISTANT PRESIDENT ( Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile ): Order! Objections and interruptions will cease.

The Hon. ADAM SEARLE: This Government does not have the courage of its convictions. It is hiding its true motives—its malign, potentially corrupt, but certainly improper, motives—behind the rubric of a restructure. The second flaw relates to the concurrence of the Chief Commissioner in the appointment of the other commissioners. We were told the three-commissioner model was based upon a provision in the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission Bill, which provides that commissioners can be appointed only with the concurrence of the Chief Commissioner. But this legislation does not do that; it requires only consultation, not concurrence. That is because the Government wants to keep as a tool in its back pocket the option that, if it does not like the Chief Commissioner, it can stack the cards against the Chief Commissioner by surrounding him or her with what the Government considers to be more suitable commissioners who will overbear the Chief Commissioner’s will. That is not proper and it is not part of the original intention of ICAC. At page 675 of Hansard on 26 May 1988 the Hon. Nick Greiner said this about the ICAC legislation:

The commissioner will have total direction and control of the commission. He or she can be appointed only for a term or terms totalling five years and can be removed from office only by the Governor on address of both Houses of this Parliament. This is one way in which the independence of the commission from the Executive is safeguarded. 

But this legislation does not do that. Another way in which it seeks to undermine that independence is by making sure that the Chief Commissioner is not in control. Of course, there is the Chief Executive to be appointed but the more insidious element is the surrounding by other commissioners who are to be more compliant. We think the simple answer to that is to reflect fully the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission [LECC] model, to simply say: You can have the other two commissioners and you can divide the work up, but only with the concurrence of the Chief Commissioner. The original proposal that operations had to be conducted only by unanimous decision of the three commissioners has been changed to a majority decision. We acknowledge the Government has taken on board the Opposition’s suggestion that the Chief Commissioner has to be part of the majority, something that was not in the Government’s original draft. However, it would seem that the Government has only accepted the Opposition’s suggestion because its ultimate and true objective is to attack the present commissioner. 

It is the inevitable conclusion of the Opposition that Government members are pursuing this model not because of its merits, but to achieve the removal of the Hon. Megan Latham from office. That is an outcome that will do great damage to anticorruption forces in this State. The commissioner cannot be removed during her term of office when no allegations of wrongdoing against her have been made, without fatally injuring ICAC. The Government does not make a case against the commissioner because it does not have a case. The commissioner has done nothing wrong. Those opposite simply disagree politically with what she has done and want to get rid of her. That is why they are seeking to ram a bill of this significance through both houses of Parliament in a little over 24 hours. The Government wants to strike while the iron is hot. It hopes that everyone will forget about it over the summer break. That is an improper and unprecedented attack on ICAC by the Liberal Government.

The Hon. Greg Donnelly: It is hubris.

The Hon. ADAM SEARLE: It is hubris, it is arrogant and it is out of touch. More than that, it is dangerous because it encourages people who want to do wrong in public administration in the State that, if you are an ally of this Government, it will intervene to protect you. I note that, on having her office terminated, the Hon. Megan Latham would have her commission as a Supreme Court judge restored. The point of this legislation is to quarantine the Liberal Party from ICAC and the consequences of their its wrongdoing.

I think that this is perhaps the lowest point in the fight against corruption in my 28 years in public life. The legislation has been brought to the other Chamber by Premier Baird and his Government. It really puts the mockers on what he said about being the worst enemy of corrupt elements when he took office in 2014.

People—those in the community and in the media—who took him at his word will be deeply disappointed, not to say shattered. It is wrong as a matter of principle to attack the messenger because the message is inconvenient and has caused pain to the ruling party. The Opposition does not support the legislation unless the Government comes to its senses and adopts our sensible and balanced amendments. I have also indicated in my contribution to this second reading debate that Opposition members do not think legislation of this significance should be rammed through the Parliament in just over 24 hours. We think there should have been much more consultation with the law bodies and with the wider community, as there was with the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission Bill [LECC]. Consequent on that view, I move:

That the question before the House be amended by omitting “now” and inserting instead “this day six months”.

I think that the community should have the opportunity to become fully aware of this legislation, and to have its merits debated in the wider community. It should not be quickly rammed through ahead of the summer break, with the Government hoping that everyone will forget about its appalling actions. I will conclude on this point: I have referred to the statement made by the ICAC commissioner, the Hon. Megan Latham, which is on the ICAC website. I could read it all onto the record, but I will read this one bit, which says:

The ICAC Act currently provides that a commissioner can only be removed on particular grounds, none of which apply in the present circumstances. This Bill introduces a mechanism whereby any commissioner may be removed from office on the basis of amending legislation which purports to re-structure the Commission.

The Bill provides that upon commencement of the amending legislation, I would cease to hold office as Commissioner. There is no justification for this and none has been suggested. This is a significant matter that was not raised with the Commission by the Parliamentary Committee and has never been raised with me by the Premier.

This Government simply does not like the job that the commissioner has done. We do not cavil with the right of Executive Government to say, “Let’s restructure and improve the body.” As I have said, we are prepared to embrace, with some misgivings, its model, because Labor members on the parliamentary committee worked very hard to achieve that cross-party consensus. But it is clear that that is not the Government’s true objective. Its true objective is to shoot the messenger—to remove the Hon. Megan Latham from office simply because she interrupted the careers of 10 or 11 Liberal members of Parliament and revealed, for all to see, the systematic rorting of the Liberal Party administration of the electoral funding and disclosure laws. 

This is a brutal political payback. We earnestly ask the Parliament not to allow this to occur, because it would be bad—it would be bad for ICAC and for the fight against corruption—and because it would be a low point. Members opposite should think very hard before associating their names with such measures for all time. The Opposition will be proposing that amendment so that the Government can be saved from itself and, more importantly, so that the community can be saved from the malice of the actions of this Government.