One Nation MLC calls for restoration of SA ICAC’s powers

One Nation MLC Sarah Game wants to restore the powers lost to the South Australian ICAC – the scenario that led to the fiery resignation of the state’s anti-corruption commissioner this week. 

Changes to the legislation governing public integrity in SA, ushered through in bipartisan and rapid fashion by both major parties in 2021, contributed to Ann Vanstone stepping down four years into her seven-year term. 

The changes to ICAC legislation significantly reduced the body’s powers, removing its ability to inquire into misconduct and maladministration in the public sector. 

In firing some parting shots at SA Parliament, Ms Vanstone said the public interest “is not served by narrowing the definition of corruption, or by isolating the Commission from the intelligence sources… or by completely divorcing us from the prosecution process”. 

Ms Game wants the changes – initiated by MLC Frank Pangallo in 2021 – repealed or altered, and is already taking steps to do so. 

“This is what it’s finally come to: our ICAC Commissioner resigning because she can’t do her job properly,” Ms Game said. 

“This is nothing short of a disgrace. Clearly these amendments have gone too far and have reduced our ICAC to a toothless tiger. 

“Further, our ICAC can’t even tell South Australians what it’s looking into – it’s been gagged. 

“I want the ICAC restored to its full power. The Commissioner made requests to the State Government for ‘modest reform’, but even they were rejected. 

“The Commissioner’s resignation casts doubt over the transparency and accountability of our entire public sector in South Australia. This is an unacceptable situation – and remember these changes put up by Frank Pangallo passed both houses of parliament in 24 hours. 

“That alone isn’t a good look. That’s hardly enough time for appropriate scrutiny, given ICAC’s importance.” 

Ms Game pointed to the Law Society of SA’s advice about the practical implications of the changes, notably the suite of dishonesty offences that now fall outside of ICAC’s reach to investigate, in the context of public administration. 

These include: 

  • Theft 
  • Money laundering 
  • Deception 
  • Dishonest dealings with documents 
  • Dishonest exploitation of positions of advantage 

In addition, Ms Game noted comments made this week by Geoffrey Watson SC, director for the Centre of Public Integrity, who labelled South Australia’s integrity service “the weakest in Australia”.