"Watchdog needed to guard feds" - The Mercury

IN my very simple view of the world, crooks should go to jail.

I don’t care whether you are a politician, a judge, a public servant, a contractor or a chief executive.

If you steal taxpayers’ money, if you rort the public purse for personal gain, you should be in handcuffs, put in the paddywagon and dragged to the clink.

Just look at the spate of rorting that has emerged in recent years.

More than $100 million spent on shoring up marginal seats with pre-election promises for sporting clubs.

And now again, just last week, fresh details concerning a $660m meltdown over carpark funding.

In both cases, government officials and elected leaders have been caught red-handed misappropriating pubblic money and using it for personal and political gain.

Moreover, the Australian National Audit Office also confirmed a staffer working in the prime minister’s office on the carpark project had also been involved in the administration of the sports rorts program.

It points to incompetence at best and rank corruption at worst.

We are now are at a tipping point. For too long we have been throwing the book at ordinary citizens while letting the rich and the powerful, those with connections, off with a polite word.

That’s got to change.

One major improvement we can make is to establish a federal integrity commission, a body that will hold politicians to account for our decisions and our conduct.

I called for a federal anticorruption commission before my election in 2016.

I’m proud to say it later became official Labor policy.

The Liberals always say they will establish one but we know they never will, because under the Morrison Liberal government things have only gotten worse.

The rorts and misconduct going on in federal politics are breathtaking.

Sports rorts, carparks, roads, community infrastructure — there is not a grant program that this government has not tried cramming into a political pork-barrel.

Then there are the government contracts which find their ways into the hands of people connected to the Liberal Party.

The result?

A handful of well-connected businesspeople raking in hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds with inadequate oversight, sometimes against the direct advice of public servants.

Billions of dollars of taxpayers funds are being spent for party political gain, not community benefit.

It’s not just politicians.

We also have senior government officials directing junior staff to continue to steal the money of vulnerable citizens, instead of fixing known data errors, and conducting sham investigations whose aim is not to find truth, but to muddy it in order to get their political masters off the hook.

And, amid it all, allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct continue to swirl around parliament like a miasma, with no one held to account, months and years after the alleged incidents occurred.

We have needed a federal integrity commission in recent years like we have never needed one before, yet the Liberals simply refuse to act.

And we all know why.

Anthony Albanese and Labor, however, are deeply committed to establishing one and I am personally committed to making sure whatever we establish has real teeth, so that crooks go to jail. Brian Mitchell is the federal Labor member for Lyons.