Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (Investigation Powers) Amendment Bill

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (16:54): I rise to speak to the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (Investigation Powers) Amendment Bill 2018. There are two primary outcomes of this bill: it fulfils our government's election commitment to give the ICAC commissioner the discretion to hold public inquiries in cases that involve potential maladministration or misconduct in public administration, and it clarifies the commissioner's powers by enumerating these in a schedule to the act rather than by reference to the Ombudsman Act or Royal Commissions Act.

There are good reasons that we are doing this. A lot of time was spent on legal argument during the Oakden inquiry on the uncertainty regarding the commissioner's powers. If there ever was a dark day in South Australia's history, it was the debacle of Oakden, not just what happened there—

Ms Luethen: Shame!

Mr PEDERICK: —absolutely, shame—at Oakden with the mistreatment of our frail and our elderly who had no right of defence, but then the almost—what would you say—non-caring view of the previous minister, who did not take the time to read a very short report, from what I understand, of about 30 pages. It is very disturbing when things like this happen, and it could have been tidied up very quickly by the previous minister, and it was not.

When our most vulnerable, whether they be, as in this case, our elderly or our young and they cannot look after themselves, it is disgraceful. There is no reason why a fundamental integrity body such as ICAC should have to borrow its powers from other entities or have to endure costly delays when investigating suspected maladministration or corruption. South Australia cannot afford to have an ICAC the powers of which are unclear. We have already had Oakden, Gillman and the acquisition of dirty diesel generators. I look at—

Mr McBride interjecting:

Mr PEDERICK: —absolutely—Gillman, and we were told that there were going to be 6,000 jobs at Gillman. There was an unsolicited bid. Other bidders were blocked out. I would like to know how many jobs there were in the legal profession, but my understanding is that the roomful of lawyers would have been the only jobs that came out of the Gillman debacle.

I used to work in the oil and gas industry in the Cooper Basin and in the Mereenie oilfield outside Alice Springs, as I have mentioned in this house plenty of times. I acknowledge the potential of what we have in this state of servicing especially the Cooper Basin and getting a sealed road up the Strzelecki Track. It is going to be a big job, but, apart from that, was the so-called commitment to these so many oil and gas jobs that were going to happen under the previous government. Well, what did we see? It all fell apart because of the shroud of secrecy around Gillman, and the only jobs that were provided were those in the legal profession.

We saw dirty diesel generators come about because the previous government, with different premiers over time, decided with their climate change policy that we will just go hellbent on having wind farms and solar power with no consequence on base load. Well, there were consequences of base load and, as we heard today, 28 September 2016 will stand in my memory forever. It was when Labor completely failed this state, apart from whatever else it got wrong on electricity supply to this state. The whole state went out from Mount Gambier to Border Village, and it was an absolute disgrace.

We were running on emergency generators here in Parliament House. I think it was 4.16pm on that day that everything fell to bits and, as a matter of safety and security, we shut down debate in the house so that public servants and people who work in this place could try to get home safely. People were locked in gridlock that day across the city. It would take an hour to get from one side to the other because we were communicating with people trying to get across the city. I was not game to leave the building until late at night because there was no point. You would just be locked up in a traffic jam outside. This was because of the failed energy policy of the previous government.

There was a contribution today about the policies around power. I can tell you, sir, that, as we know, $24 million would have kept Port Augusta going. But, oh, no, the green-eyed genie had come out of the bottle: 'We'll just knock Port Augusta down,' and I think about 540 megawatts of base load power were just knocked out of the system. We have something like 53 per cent of renewables in this state, and when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine guess what? The lights go out. In the end, we have had the most expensive electricity in the world, which was inflicted on us by the former government. It is a disgrace.

Then there were hundreds of millions of dollars invested in diesel generators. Let's not be too cynical, but we have a previous government that was supporting solar power and wind power, but when it all hit the fan—because the fans were not working—we bought nine diesel generators in this state because that is where you will get base load generation. They were going to burn, at full noise, I think it was 80,000 litres of diesel an hour. I remember interjecting on the former energy minister, suggesting that he did not need a truck to deliver the fuel to these generators; he would need a ship. It is just mind-boggling to think we were left in such a situation that we saw a dirty deal done over dirty diesel generators.

The former Labor government was afraid of transparency and accountability, but we recognise our obligations to the South Australian public, and we are committed to governing openly and transparently. This bill is an integral part of our transparency and accountability agenda across government, and this includes other bills. One of them we hope to progress later on today—protecting journalists from having to reveal confidential sources and strengthening protections for whistleblowers. It will be interesting to see what the journalists who are now members of parliament on the Labor side of the house have to say about that legislation.

What we are doing with this current legislation involving the ICAC is that this bill allows for the commissioner to determine whether any inquiry will be public, private or partly both. We will set out the grounds on which the commissioner can make a determination on the same. The bill also allows for the commissioner to delegate his powers to a deputy commissioner to conduct an investigation. The commissioner may also issue directions regarding the disclosure and publication of evidence in an investigation—this is currently found in the Royal Commissions Act—including the power to issue non-publication orders retrospectively, which is currently in the Ombudsman Act.

The bill will also provide the commissioner with the power to compel the production of material that is otherwise subject to immunity or privilege, save for limited exceptions as recommended by the commissioner. It will also provide the commissioner with the power to make public statements or publish a report in respect of an investigation as well as to make findings as to whether maladministration or misconduct in public administration has occurred, along with recommendations. It will also provide the commissioner with contempt powers, which is also currently found in the Royal Commissions Act.

I note that this bill was drafted in consultation with the commissioner and reflects the most recent lessons to be drawn from the Oakden inquiry. I commend the bill and I commend the work of the Attorney-General. I commend the work of the former member for Heysen, who was a champion of this type of legislation, and I commend the Marshall Liberal government for putting this legislation forward.