Scott Morrison’s Icac claims are ‘absolute rubbish’, say transparency experts | Australian politics

Transparency experts have criticised as “absolute rubbish” Scott Morrison’s claims that the resignations of New South Wales Liberal premiers Nick Greiner and Barry O’Farrell show the Independent Commission Against Corruption is a “kangaroo court”.

On the defensive after effectively ditching his commitment to create a federal anti-corruption body, Morrison complained on Friday that the NSW Icac had resulted in politicians quitting “too many times”.

Morrison is a longstanding critic of Icac’s investigation into the former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian’s secret relationship with MP Daryl Maguire and her alleged failure to declare a conflict while involved in grants for his electorate of Wagga Wagga. Berejiklian has denied any wrongdoing and Icac is yet to hand down its findings.

On Friday Morrison said the Coalition’s proposed commonwealth integrity commission “isn’t a process of trying people … in the media that we’ve seen through the Icac process”.

“It doesn’t get into salacious public hearings about who’s people’s boyfriends are and runs people out of jobs, runs people out of jobs before the commission has even finalised their review,” he told Sky News.

Morrison accused the Icac of “quite disgracefully” airing Berejiklian’s relationship in public, prompting her resignation.

“I mean, the same thing happened with Barry O’Farrell … The same thing happened to Nick Greiner. We’ve seen it too many times. These matters should be done in a proper legal process.

“Where people’s, all rights are respected … And that’s the sort of serious model that I want. I don’t want a show trial. I don’t want a kangaroo court.”

Greiner, who set up the NSW Icac, resigned in 1992 over an adverse finding from an investigation into allegations that he had misused his position to secure an independent MP’s resignation for political advantage.

Icac’s adverse finding against Greiner was later overturned on appeal, and he has since publicly defended the Icac from its detractors.

O’Farrell was not the subject of Icac investigation, but resigned in 2014 after he told the Icac, while appearing as a witness into an investigation into Australian Water Holdings’ efforts to secure a lucrative government deal, that he did not receive a bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange. The next day O’Farrell revealed he had been made aware of a thank you note for the wine, acknowledging the error in his evidence although insisting he had no recollection of receiving it.

O’Farrell appeared again before Icac to correct his evidence and apologise. Icac cleared him of any wrongdoing, finding that “that there was no intention on Mr O’Farrell’s part to mislead”.

Stephen Charles, a former judge of the Victorian court of appeal and board member of the Centre for Public Integrity, told Guardian Australia Morrison’s comments about NSW Icac were “ridiculous”.

Charles said O’Farrell “would still be premier” if he hadn’t resigned, as “nobody was making any allegation of corruption” against him.

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“It has had no effect on his reputation, he is now Australia’s high commissioner to India. His embarrassment was understandable, but he should have apologised, and that would’ve been the end of it.”

Charles said Greiner had also resigned “voluntarily” and could also have “saved” his position by waiting for the court of appeal decision.

He said it was ludicrous of Morrison to refuse to introduce his integrity commission bill unless Labor supports it.

“Never before have I heard someone in government say they would not carry out an election commitment because the opposition opposed it. It’s fatuous nonsense.”

Barrister Geoffrey Watson, counsel assisting the NSW Icac at the time of O’Farrell’s resignation, said Morrison’s comments were “absolute rubbish”.

“Mr O’Farrell gave evidence to Icac that was wrong. He wasn’t asked to resign, he did it of his own accord,” Watson said.

“I was there that day – I still have no idea why, if it was an innocent error, he resigned. Icac didn’t do that to him, he did that to himself.”

Berejiklian has consistently denied she acted improperly during her relationship with Maguire, but resigned in October claiming she had “no choice” after the Icac revealed it was investigating whether she had been involved in “a breach of public trust” between 2012 and 2018 because of her relationship with Maguire.

Watson said people were “entitled to have some misgivings” about Berejiklian’s failure to declare the relationship at cabinet level, citing former premier Mike Baird’s evidence that he was “incredulous” after learning about the relationship.

“Morrison is starting to sound desperate with these childish attacks, which are not based in fact,” he said.

Labor has committed to introducing a national anti-corruption commission by the end of 2022, if elected.

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