The Northern Territory’s Country Liberals government has been “dragged kicking and screaming” to finally set up an independent anti-corruption commission.
Although both the government and Labor opposition had motions proposing two different ICAC models, it was a motion by independent Gerry Wood which was passed by parliament on Wednesday.
This was after the attorney-general withdrew his motion to allow the government choose a commissioner.
Labor MP Nicole Manison said the attorney-general’s proposal “failed the integrity test”, the public wanted a fully independent body.
“People have absolutely lost trust in this government,” she said.
“The infighting has spilled out into the public for all to see… it’s a mess.”
The embattled government has faced various scandals over the past 18 months but steadfastly maintained an anti-corruption body was unnecessary.
Treasurer Dave Tollner said Australian ICACs were “extraordinarily controversial” and expensive to run.
“There has been a perception created in the community that there are corrupt politicians in the NT,” he said.
“That is wrong, completely wrong; by and large the members from both sides of this chamber are beyond repute.”
He referred to his own “hissy fit” in June during which he berated a morning radio host for calling for an ICAC, saying it would erode the supremacy of parliament.
“I don’t want to fuel that perception that we’re all corrupt, that we’re all dodgy, that we’re all on the take,” he said.
It was an historic day in the NT, Opposition Leader Michael Gunner said.
“The CLP have been dragged kicking and screaming” to finally agree to create the commission, he said.
“The CLP have had three positions in three weeks; they’ve gone from saying there should be no independent anti-corruption commission, to saying we should just beef up some of the existing structures which haven’t worked, to saying now today ‘we agree with opposition and independents that there should be an independent anti-corruption commission’.”
He said the only reason the motion was passed was because the government has lost its majority, and now holds only 12 seats in the 25-seat Legislative Assembly.
Four of the five independents are former CLP members who, since last April, have walked out on the government.
Attorney-General John Elferink said the government didn’t want to play politics and was happy to endorse Mr Wood’s motion.
“Today was a success for democracy,” he said.