More than 30 retired Australian judges have united to call on a future federal government to “urgently” establish a new national integrity watchdog, ahead of Saturday’s election.
The 31 former judges have penned an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Labor leader Albanese, Greens leader Adam Bandt, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, United Australia Party founder Clive Palmer and “all Australian political leaders”, calling on them to introduce a national integrity commission in the next parliament.
“We are retired judges who believe that a national integrity commission is urgently needed to fill the gaps in our integrity system and restore trust in our political processes,” the letter reads.
“Despite recent criticisms of anti-corruption commissions, the widely accepted case for a well-designed national integrity commission remains impregnable.”
The group of former judges is mainly made up of former QCs and includes former judge of the High Court of Australia Mary Gaudron QC, former judge of the Supreme Court of WA and of the Federal Court of Australia Michael Barker QC and former judge of the Victorian Court of Appeal John Batt AM.
The letter insists Australia’s existing federal bodies “lack the necessary jurisdiction, powers and know-how to investigate properly the impartiality and bona-fides of decisions made by, and conduct of, the federal government and public sector”.
“Without the commission we envisage, the right of Australians to have their taxes employed for the maximum national advantage will not always prevail over the corrupt exercise of power,” it states.
When asked about the letter while campaigning in the marginal Victorian seat of Corangamite this morning, Morrison appeared to brush off the judges’ calls.
“It’s a free country. I express opinions on judges myself and on courts from time to time,” he said.
“I’m happy for them to make their contribution.”
However, he said the government would press ahead with its own plan for an integrity watchdog.
Morrison has proposed to create a Commonwealth integrity commission that could hold public hearings for inquiries into police or public officials, but not politicians, if he is re-elected.
The proposed commission would not be allowed to launch its own investigations or act on tips from the public.
Morrison has previously said his promise to create a federal anti-corruption commission in 2018 did not eventuate because Labor did not support the Coalition’s model.
Albanese has promised to create a federal anti-corruption commission “with teeth” before the end of the year if he wins the election.