Monday, 4 October 2021

Do we need an ICAC

- that is, an "Independent Commission Against Corruption"?

There is an ICAC in this state. The powers of it are set to be reduced. There is also an ICAC in another state which has just caused the resignation of a Premier at an inconvenient moment.

ICACs are supposed to investigate corruption, make recommendations to the courts for prosecution and more. They are supposed to be what they say they are "independent" and "against corruption".

I have no doubt they serve a purpose. Western democracies are as able to be corrupt as any other system of government. People take "backhanders" and much more. More than once I have been aware of people attempting to benefit in ways they should not benefit. More than once I have been aware of bribes being offered. On occasion there have been vast sums of money involved in complex transactions and some very small cog in the wheel has been involved - but it could bring the whole project down. Trying to work out who is being paid, what they are being paid and whether they are personally going to benefit or whether a project is going to fall apart is often very difficult. Thankfully I don't make the decisions but others do and I have to work with them.

But what really counts as corruption? The Premier who has just resigned was popular. She was popular even outside her own party. The claims of corruption have been swirling around her for years. She made an unfortunate choice in her male companion. Did he influence her? Was she aware of the influence he was having? Did she actually benefit? If not, who did benefit? Was the money granted to that club something that would have been granted anyway? 

There are many more questions there. All those questions may need to be answered but they could have been answered long ago. The decision to "investigate" now in the midst of a major pandemic where the Premier has been doing what is widely considered to be a good  job has to be suspect. Is the ICAC really acting independently or is there a political motive in all this? Is the ICAC really as independent as it is intended to be? 

There will always be questions over the independence of the judiciary and related organisations. The upcoming case in the US Supreme Court which will effectively visit the decision in Roe v Wade (on abortion rights) will be decided by "conservative" judges. Will they really go by the law of the land or will their own beliefs influence the outcome? 

As a law student I often had to read tortuous judgments which attempted to justify decisions which were clearly the outcome the court decided was needed. Is this "corruption"? 

And there is the damage that the mere fact of an investigation can do. There was a suicide here, the suicide of someone under investigation. He had been under investigation for so long he could no longer handle it. Just after his suicide the findings were brought down. He was innocent of all charges against him. 

Corruption has to be dug out carefully. The roots cannot be left behind. At the same time we need to be sure that this is really what is happening. We need to be sure that what is being investigated is actually corruption - and not just politics.   

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