1 November 2023

Northern Territory parliament changing ICAC focus to 'most serious, systemic and sensitive improper conduct'

| James Day
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The Northern Territory parliament building in the day with palm trees surrounding it.

The changes are designed to ensure ICAC has an appropriate amount of power to meet the demands of the public while also protecting the rights of individuals. Photo: George Clerk.

The Northern Territory Parliament has amended rules governing the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) so that trust in government accountability can be guaranteed under the ICAC Act.

Following the release of a discussion paper, community consultation sessions throughout the Territory and an exposure draft, the bill was confirmed by parliament so ICAC has an appropriate amount of power to meet the demands of the public while also protecting the rights of individuals.

“Today, the Territory Government has strengthened the powers of the ICAC, making sure there are clear boundaries for the ICAC to conduct their work and protect the interest of whistle-blowers,” the Territory’s Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said.

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The Northern Territory established its ICAC in 2017 under the current Labor government to investigate any improper conduct of an officer or body connected to affairs concerning the public. Central to the bill’s modifications is simplifying ICAC’s purpose of inquiring into matters of the most severe nature.

“Changes made today ensure that the most serious, systemic and sensitive improper conduct is investigated and give the public confidence in government.”

Chief Minister Fyles added that it also improves the ability of whistle-blowers and witnesses to report poor behaviour and strengthens the Territory’s Journalist Shield laws, which were originally passed in 2018 to protect journalists’ confidential sources from being identified.

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The bill further tightens existing provisions regarding the suitability of officers under the Act, particularly regarding political affiliation, lifting the political affiliation bar from five to 10 years.

Throughout the year, the ICAC office has undergone reforms to bring added penalties for public officers and bodies that have declined to cooperate with their investigations. Since the National Anti-Corruption Commission was established at the beginning of July, the office has also been negotiating challenges around the delegation of staff and mandates between each organisation.

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