Cabinet minister Simon Birmingham argues the federal government has been too busy dealing with the coronavirus pandemic to establish a federal integrity commission as promised.
The work of state anti-corruption bodies has come into sharp focus after Premier Gladys Berejiklian appeared before the NSW Independent Commission against Corruption.
Queensland LNP Leader Deb Frecklington is also under the microscope over issues relating to donation laws.
The federal government has been promising to establish a national integrity commission since January 2018.
Damning audits into a Western Sydney Airport land purchase and the sports rorts affair have fuelled calls to speed up the process.
But Senator Birmingham says the government has been too busy protecting people from coronavirus.
“Our top priority has been keeping people safe and getting them back into their jobs,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.
“Now of course, the attorney-general works on these other matters, and I’m sure continues to do so.
“But I think Australians rightly expect our priorities this year have been about saving their lives and saving their jobs.”
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has renewed his calls for a national corruption watchdog.
“I’ve seen enough evidence about a whole range of issues — sports rorts and other scandals that have happened at the federal level — to know that one of the things that ICAC has done is expose corruption,” he told the ABC on Monday night.
“We need a national integrity commission to restore faith in the political process.”
Queensland coalition backbencher Gerard Rennick is dead against a national integrity commission, describing such a body as a “kangaroo court” that would invade people’s privacy.
“I don’t want unelected bureaucrats with the right to tap my telephone,” he told Sky News.
Senator Rennick later attempted to walk back his remarks, saying he would not support integrity commission models that repeated “the many notable failures” of the watchdog in NSW.
“The government policy aims to address many of these problems and I will look closely at the legislation once it is released,” he posted to Twitter.