The National Anti-Corruption Commission has just passed the Senate after two amendments from the Greens were approved, with Labor now one step closer to fulfilling tis election promise.
A Greens amendment was included to expand the powers of the inspector that oversees the NACC was supported by the Coalition.
“The Bill gives the NACC extremely broad powers to compel witnesses to answer questions and force the production of documents, and with this comes the need for a fully empowered Inspector to be a check on any potential misuse of these powers,” Senator David Shoebridge said.
The crossbench’s last attempt to remove the “exceptional circumstances” test to make it easier to hold public hearings was defeated after Labor and the Goalition combined to vote it down.
Labor needed the support of either the Coalition, or The Greens and one crossbench senator, to pass legislation in the upper house.
The Senate version of the bill will now have to return to the House of Representatives where it’s expected Labor will approve the minor changes.
The commissioner will be the top official in charge of running the NACC, while the inspector will be an independent official tasked with overseeing any corruption issues within the NACC itself.
Under Labor’s Bill, the government’s proposed NACC commissioner and inspector must be endorsed by the NACC oversight committee, made up of six government, four opposition and two crossbench MPs and senators.
The committee’s chair, which would be a government member, would receive a casting vote, effectively giving the government the power to veto commissioner appointments.
The amendment moved in the Senate on Tuesday afternoon by The Greens and Senator Pocock would require one non-government vote on the committee in order to make the appointments.
Greens justice spokesman David Shoebridge said the tweak was needed to prevent any “noxious” future governments from making political appointments that could undermine the NACC’s work.
“It removes the absolute power from the government of the day for this critical appointment, but it also removes a veto from the opposition,” Senator Shoebridge told reporters.
However, the Greens-Pocock amendment was defeated by Labor and the Coalition.
Anthony Albanese told parliament the amendment hadn’t been one of the recommendations of the joint select committee on the National Anti-Corruption Commission.
“We had a committee process, after which we had recommendations and we adopted all of them. I stand by our position,” the Prime Minister said.
“What we have not done is support amendments that have flowed from various quarters in this chamber after we have had … extensive consultation.
“I sincerely hope the Senate adopts our position that has been put forward.”
Senator Shoebridge said The Greens were still committed to passing the legislation by the end of the week, apparently backing down from an earlier threat to join forces with the Coalition.
Senator Shoebridge said on Monday that unless Labor agreed that the committee chair could not be a member of government, The Greens would support a Coalition amendment requiring bipartisan support to appoint the national anti-corruption commissioner and inspector.
The Coalition’s amendment would have required a “super majority”, or three-quarters of the members of the NACC oversight committee, to support the Attorney-General’s pick for commissioner.
The “super majority” amendment was voted down in the Senate on Tuesday afternoon.
A spokesman for Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the government had not changed its position that the legislation should pass the Senate in the same form as it passed the House of Representatives.