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Sky News with Peta Credlin

Senator the Hon Amanda Stoker

Subjects: Criminal Integrity Commission, nuclear energy, US activists


PETA CREDLIN: The New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption, ICAC, it's a 'monster', that's according to one of my next panellists. Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General Amanda Stoker, who's working on the model for a federal anti-corruption body says the broad-sweeping powers of the New South Wales ICAC has seen lives destroyed over trivialities. Senator Stoker joins me now from Brisbane, along with her regular sparring partner, Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon who's coming to us now from Cessnock. Senator Stoker I'll start with first you if I can, I've said my piece a bit earlier about New South Wales ICAC model and I'm not convinced we need something at a commonwealth level, given the lack of control Federal MPs and even Ministers have over money, give me a sense if you can of the model you're working on, and whether or not it'll have some, you know, public hearings for example. Will it be retrospective in any way?

AMANDA STOKER: Peta, you're quite right to identify that in the federal sphere you don't have Ministers with their hands on the till so to speak, and so the risks aren't the same as you might expect at state or local government level. It's also true to say, something that often gets lost in the debate, that we have about 12 commonwealth agencies that are responsible for integrity and transparency, so to the extent that we might want to have one of these Commissions, really it's just the bringing together of existing agencies rather than a suggestion that we don't have protections at all. But what we need to do is make sure we have a system here in the Commonwealth Integrity Commission that is an effective bulwark against corruption, should it arise, and that it holds people who engage in such conduct accountable in a meaningful way, but that they do it in a way that respects the traditions of the criminal justice system so that we aren't trampling on the rights or the reputations of individuals to, for instance, know the allegation they have to meet, or to face evidence of a reasonable standard to justify those kinds of allegations before a finding is made. At the moment, in the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption, we have a situation where people's reputations are trashed over trivialities, we have a situation where people's careers are ruined in circumstances where no crime has been committed, in circumstances where allegations are made that are often set aside by other courts, in circumstances where prosecutors say, 'there's not enough to go from, here' and throw out the brief. That's not enough-

PETA CREDLIN:  Senator can we, quick response. I want to bring in Joel Fitzgibbon but will it be retrospective?


PETA CREDLIN: And will it have public hearings? And public hearings?

AMANDA STOKER: Look, retrospective is, retrospective is a term in the sense that it can mean a whole bunch of different things, but I think it's important to note that, even if it were to start from today onwards, that doesn't mean there's a gap in accountability. There's still a whole lot of agencies that are watching accountability and transparency right now-


AMANDA STOKER: In relation to public hearings, the current model provides for them to be done in private so that reputation tarnishing can't occur.

PETA CREDLIN: Alright, Joel Fitzgibbon, just on this point more broadly, but also do we need to reform, I think we do, ICAC New South Wales? What's your view?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Of course we do, Peta.  Amanda described ICAC as a 'monster', I've described it as a 'kangaroo court'. No rules of evidence, no certainty about 'what is the benchmark for innocence' or otherwise, and a body which has trashed the reputation and careers of so many people who have never been found guilty in our law courts of any wrongdoing whatsoever, and I'm sure there are three Liberal Premiers who lost their jobs who would agree entirely with what Amanda and I have been saying tonight. I don't know whether its possible now to reform something that's already n place because, in the eye of the public, it will be seen as a winding back of integrity measures, so it's not going to be easy to wind it back. But, you know, the original creator, Nick Greiner, who himself was the first victim of ICAC, I'm sure would be most supportive of reform but it's whether the government of the day can carry that argument in the public marketplace because we can have no tolerance for corruption in politics or public life but we've got to have a fair system in which people are able to defend themselves, and not have their careers and lives trashed by a mere reference to what is called, importantly, a corruption body.

PETA CREDLIN: I'll stay with you if I can. I just had Matt Canavan on the program, we talked about a poll, a very good, strong poll, it says basically majority support out there for nuclear power, across the board in this country. I think it's ridiculous to wait for bipartisanship, but you know, you correct me if I'm wrong, do you see that Labor could move on the issue of nuclear power in the short term, short to medium term?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: I believe it'd be very hard, Peta. There would really have to be a groundswell of community support, and a community campaign. But you know, what do we know about nuclear generation? Is it safe? Yes. Does it produce baseload power? Yes. Is it emissions zero, emissions free? Yes. We're going to put nuclear reactors now in our ports, and would have them navigating up and down our coastlines on submarines. No one seems to be saying boo about that but, of course, people are still complaining that they're not sufficiently safe, or they often invoke other reasons for not having nuclear generation. I think the only question we don't know is whether they can be economical, whether they can compete in the market. Now the people who should be left to determine that of course, are the investors. So, we need to get rid of this crazy prohibition, so an investor can test the market, and test community and government sentiment and if they can jump all the usual hurdles that any other [inaudible] must jump, then why not have it here in Australia?

PETA CREDLIN: Right, let's go to the United States and disturbing footage has emerged of left-wing activists accosting a Democratic Senator Sinema in a bathroom over her reluctance to support Joe Biden's trillion-dollar Build Back Better legislation. Let's have a look.

[Clip plays]

PETA CREDLIN: This more and more, Amanda, is what passes for debate. We not only can't argue with each other in a civil manner, we're now filming things, putting them up on social media, trolling people. That's not what democracy is supposed to be like.

AMANDA STOKER: That's not what democracy is supposed to be like and it's not how we solve the challenging policy problems of our time. Civility, the kind that we can, you know – Joel and I – demonstrate weekly, is the key to working through the big problems the nation faces, not harassing people in the loo and posting it online.

PETA CREDLIN: Yeah, I think it's extraordinary, sorry state of affairs. Joel Fitzgibbon and Amanda Stoker, thank you very much.