AUSTRALIA RECONSIDERING SUPPORT FOR OPEN GOVERNMENT INITIATIVE

Australia is reportedly reconsidering its pledge to sign up to the Open Government Partnership (OGP), an international platform committed to open and accountable government. Australia was expected to formally enter the OGP in April, joining 63 participating nations including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Indonesia. However, the federal Attorney-General has passed the responsibility for Australia’s position on the OGP to the Finance Minister, who recently declined to personally attend a regional meeting of the OGP. A spokeswoman for the Australian government confirmed that its commitment to the OGP was currently under review, and that the government has yet to reach a final policy position on the matter.    

AUSTRALIAN CRIME COMMISSION, AFP AND INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES PUSH FOR REFORM OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS LAWS

In a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, the acting chief of the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) has argued that internet and phone companies should be forced to collect and keep data for two years. The ACC, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and intelligence agencies are among those calling for changes to the Telecommunications (Interceptions and Access) Act 1979 (Cth) (Act). In its submission to the Senate Committee, the AFP noted that it uses its powers under the Act to collect evidence for the investigation of crime including in relation to serious Commonwealth corruption matters. The ACC is pushing for a mandatory two-year retention period for metadata – information left by making a phone call, sending an email or browsing the internet. The Senate Committee is due to report on 10 June 2014.   

GREATER POWERS FOR VICTORIA'S ANTI-CORRUPTION AGENCY

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine is reportedly considering concerns raised by commissioners of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC). The Premier’s comments follow criticisms that the bar has been set at an unreasonably high level for the agency, with prima facie evidence of an indictable offence needed before investigations into most public office holders can be launched. The Age has described the Premier’s comments as ‘the strongest indication yet that [IBAC] could be strengthened’.   

REFORM CONSIDERED FOR QUEENSLAND'S CRIME AND MISCONDUCT COMMISSION

The recent reforms introduced by the Queensland government to ‘strengthen and modernise’ the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) have been widely criticised including by by five former commissioners whose experience at the CMC spans from 2004 to 2013. In submissions to the parliamentary committee currently reviewing the proposed amendments to the Crime and Misconduct Act 2001 (QLD), the former commissioners have raised concerns regarding the independence of the CMC and the removal of the need for bipartisan support for the appointment of commissioners. The proposed reforms have also been criticised by the CMC’s current acting chair, Ken Levy, who submitted that ‘if the bill is left unchanged, while recognising the wider role of the CMC compared to most other similar statutory bodies in Australia, Queensland will be the only state that does not have a primary function to deal with serious corruption’. The parliamentary committee is due to report on 30 April 2014.