Australia’s new national anti-corruption body testament to Griffith research and perseverance

Professor AJ Brown with Federal Attorney-General the Honourable Mark Dreyfus KC and Transparency International Australia CEO Clancy Moore on the day of the introduction to parliament of the NACC Bill, September 2022

More than 20 years of research and advocacy by Griffith University policy experts has helped deliver ground-breaking national anti-corruption reform for Australia.

Passed by the Commonwealth Parliament on the last day of November 2022, legislation creating the National Anti-Corruption Commission has been hailed by experts and civil society groups, and supported by all sides of politics.

Professor A J Brown, program leader for integrity, leadership and public trust in Griffith’s Centre for Governance and Public Policy, said the final outcome was directly and indirectly influenced by the University’s research, as well as its partnership with the global coalition against corruption, Transparency International.

Professor A J Brown

“In 2017, our latest Australian Research Council Linkage Project, Strengthening Australia’s National Integrity System directly informed the report of the Senate Select Committee on a National Integrity Commission, and more recently, the final design of Australia’s new anti-corruption body meets most of the key principles in our 2020 Blueprint for Reform.

“This includes a wide and flexible definition of corruption, strong new investigative powers and, crucially, legislated corruption prevention functions” Professor Brown said.

The Griffith team’s research was also directly taken up in design of the cross-bench National Integrity Commission Bills, introduced by Independent MP Cathy McGowan AO, her successor Dr Helen Haines, and the Australian Greens, which paved the way for the new Albanese Government proposals.

Director of the Griffith Criminology Institute, Professor Janet Ransley, led a component of the research focusing on the importance of strong new corruption prevention efforts, driven by risk assessment, system hardening and opportunity reduction, not just deterrence.

But Griffith’s involvement goes back much further – with a broad-based national anti-corruption body being the first recommendation of Australia’s National Integrity System Assessment, led by foundation Dean of Law, Professor Charles Sampford in 2005, with then Senior Research Fellow A J Brown as its lead author.

Professor Charles Sampford, Director of Griffith's Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law
Professor Charles Sampford

That original partnership with Transparency International Australia, also funded by the Australian Research Council, was inspired by a visit to Queensland ten years earlier by founding CEO of Transparency International, Jeremy Pope.

“Queensland’s anti-corruption reforms were a very significant improvement on the then prevalent ‘Hong Kong model’ of an anti-corruption law and single, strong anti-corruption agency,” Professor Sampford said.

“We were the first to recognize and describe this new model in which a range of laws, ethical standards, economic incentives and institutions were combined to raise standards of behaviour and combat corruption, as well as mutually checking each other.’

Since then, Griffith’s research on corruption, integrity systems and public interest whistleblowing has seen partnerships not only with Transparency International – on whose global board Professor Brown now serves – but bodies including the US Council on Foreign Relations, Open Society Institute, World Bank, United Nations Development Program, and most of Australia’s key state and federal Ombudsmen, anti-corruption agencies, corporate regulators and business and professional bodies.

Professor Sampford also serves on the board of Australia’s Accountability Round Table, which this year presented a Commonwealth Parliamentary Integrity Award to Dr Helen Haines MP, following in the footsteps of McGowan. Professors Brown and Sampford were also invited experts in the Attorney-General’s final consultations on design of the National Anti-Corruption Commission bill.

“There are still lessons for Australia to learn, to protect and sustain its anti-corruption bodies against the huge political challenges that go with their role,” Professor Brown said.

“However it’s gratifying to know that an engaged, evidence-based approach to policy and legislative development, undertaken in partnership with civil society, government policymakers, political actors and professional bodies can yield such practical results for Australia and lessons which will echo worldwide.”

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