Outgoing NSW anti-corruption commissioner Stephen Rushton has labelled the Federal Coalition “buffoons” and that claims the state’s commission model was a “kangaroo court” are “deeply offensive”.
The government has publicly refused to back down from open criticism of NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), of which Mr Rushton was appointed commissioner in 2017.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed that former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was “done over” by ICAC, where private details of her relationship with then-MP Daryl Maguire became public knowledge.
“I’ve seen the lives destroyed by a commission such as that which becomes a kangaroo court and goes around and seems to operate through politics and shaming people,” Mr Morrison said.
In response, Mr Rushton did not hold back today.
“There are vast differences between the functions of the commission and a court,” he said.
“To make an uninformed comment that this commission is a kangaroo court has a real capacity to undermine the commission’s work, and just as importantly, public confidence in public administration.
“It is deeply offensive to the hard-working staff of the commission; it undermines the institution.”
Minister for Finance Simon Birmingham responded to the “buffoons” comment in a televised interview with the ABC this morning.
“They’re not about integrity, they seem to be about grabbing headlines,” he said.
“We’ve proposed a model that absolutely ensures you have an effective integrity commission, has effective powers, but also ensures that it doesn’t destroy reputations first and make findings later.”
The Coalition have come under substantial criticism for their stance on anti-corruption in NSW, with Labor and integrity experts saying the proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC) as being “secretive” and “lacking teeth”, based on a proposal outline.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said that the angry reaction from Mr Rushton was only natural after the Prime Minister’s comments.
“You’ve had an ICAC Commissioner come out and slam the Prime Minister for his outrageous comments about a kangaroo court,” he said.
“They are quite extraordinary comments that he’s made, and he’s been rebuked.”
Mr Rushton is currently in the process of stepping down, and after Mr Morrison expressed his public displeasure with the way Ms Berejiklian’s corruption investigation was handled, the two parties have traded media barbs for the previous couple of months.
More to come.