The federal government has thwarted an attempt to force a parliamentary debate on a federal anti-corruption agency, as independent senators blasted delays in creating an integrity agency.
Government senators voted to reject a move on Tuesday from crossbench senator Rex Patrick pushing the Senate to debate lower house Independent MP Helen Haines' proposed anti-corruption commission.
Senator Patrick said it had been 1077 days since the Coalition vowed to bring legislation to Parliament establishing an integrity agency, and listed a series of scandals that had raised questions about the conduct of government MPs in that time.
"The government is basically absent without leave on this," he said.
"It's really important from an integrity perspective and a confidence perspective to make sure that the public are able to see our transactions, how we might be influenced in terms of our votes, all of that has to be on the table for people to see.
"Until such time as we get a some form of Independent Commission Against Corruption, an Australian federal integrity commission, these concerns will linger.
"There is now urgency that we have to force the government to comply with their promise."
Coalition senator Simon Birmingham defended the government's anti-corruption framework, calling it "robust" and "multi-faceted" and saying agencies including the Australian Federal Police, with Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity already investigated integrity matters.
"That existing framework does provide already very important protections for Australians in relation to the operational conduct of all public officials or law enforcement officials, of all those who are subject to the laws of the land and to investigation by the range of entities that currently exist," Senator Birmingham said.
He said the government was still working to create a Commonwealth integrity agency but set no date for its establishment. The Attorney-General was looking at feedback to draft legislation for the Coalition's proposed legislation, Senator Birmingham said.
Labor supported Senator Patrick's motion, saying the government's refusal to advance an anti-corruption watchdog meant the Senate had to take leadership.
Senator Katy Gallagher said the government was ducking the debate to avoid drawing attention to funding scandals including sports rorts and car park rorts.
"When a government has its prime minister leading the charge, where ministers are rewarded for the misuse of money like this, is it any wonder there is no desire to bring forward a debate about a national anti-corruption body? What a surprise" she said.
Tasmanian crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie lambasted the delays in creating a federal ICAC, saying a three-year-old born when the Coalition promised an anti-corruption commission in 2018 had made more progress. She called the government's proposed model a toothless watchdog.
"It's another lie. So many people are looking at you, they're sick of your lies!" she said.
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