Elections: Australia PM vows to establish anti-corruption agency

If re-elected next month, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday that if he is re-elected, he will seek to establish an anti-corruption agency, criticising the opposition Labor Party’s plan.

Morrison is under pressure from Labor ahead of the May 21 general election to establish a federal integrity commission, which he first promised in 2018.

Morrison has failed to form a commission, said to Labor leader Anthony Albanese, due to integrity issues in his conservative coalition.

“Scott Morrison’s front bench is the reason he doesn’t have a national anti-corruption commission,” Albanese said while campaigning in far north Queensland.

Morrison has been accused of abandoning his commitment to establish an anti-corruption agency in the first week of the campaign, and of failing to commit to doing so if he wins another term in parliament.

Labor says that a national anti-corruption commission, comparable to New South Wales’ Independent Commission Against Corruption, is required to restore trust in Australia’s democratic system by investigating misuse of federal monies in award programmes.

In a campaign centred on wages and inflation, surveys released this week showed Albanese’s center-left Labor Party leading Morrison’s conservative Liberal-National Party coalition, even as the prime minister’s lead as the country’s preferred leader grew.

Morrison said in Melbourne that if re-elected, he would “aim to implement” a watchdog, but he wouldn’t say when or if it would be a priority.

He called Labor’s proposal a “two-page fluff sheet” and claimed the government had a “very serious policy” of over 300 pages.

By the end of the year, Albanese predicted, a Labor administration will have put in place an anti-corruption commission “with teeth.” It would be self-governing and allowed to hold public hearings, he explained.

He told reporters in Cairns, “It is one that will be real, as opposed to their model, which has been rejected by everyone.”

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