The speech I gave in support of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Amendment Bill. It is always good to see a government that is prepared to look for better ways to fight corruption and better ways to ensure that those who are corrupt are brought to account.
I support the Independent Commission Against Corruption Amendment Bill 2015. All members of this House are aware of the terrible scourge of corruption and its impact on our State Government and our community—perhaps none more so than those of us in the Hunter, who were so deeply affected by this in the last term of government. In that last term, the Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC] hearings became a daily event for people of the Hunter, as—like an onion—layer upon layer was peeled back to show even more behaviour that was so terrible that none of us could quite believe it. We waited daily to hear which of the newly elected members would resign when allegations about brown-paper bags containing money and other forms of corruption were broadcast. Back in the 1990s I was proud to be a Commonwealth Government official, so I was appalled to hear of this corruption. I could not believe that this kind of behaviour could be acceptable and that people would seek the office that we hold with such honour and privilege and want to take more for themselves.
I have travelled the world as a travel agent and have seen countries where corruption, baksheesh and other kinds of favours are par for the course. I had always believed that those practices had not reached our community nor had an impact on us. I believe, and I have always said, that corruption starts with a single cup of coffee. When offered a gift from someone, we must be clear about why it is being offered. If we feel that taking the gift could lead to a sense of obligation to that person in the future, we should not accept it. It is important to be clear whom we represent in this place. We represent our communities, not sectional interests. It is sometimes hard to make these things clear because we have all come from different groups, organisations or businesses and different backgrounds. Those experiences have informed the way that we came into this place. However, we must always remember that when we walk through the doors into this Chamber we come in here solely as representatives of our community, solely to work for the benefit of our State and solely to ensure that the good of our whole community is put above the good of any organisation with which we may have some association.
I am proud to be a member of the New South Wales Parliament. It is such a sad and disgraceful thing that there are people who have been in this place who have not taken that commitment seriously. In supporting this bill, it is important for all of us to take to heart what it seeks to achieve so that we do not place ourselves in those positions. I also draw to the attention of the House the importance of being clear in what we say to the community. We have seen what happened in the Hunter and the way that that was d
ealt with by the sitting members. Some of them left their parties and some left Parliament, which necessitated by-elections. Promises were made about the action that would be taken, but they were not acted upon. It was said that apologies would be made so that people could feel that there had been clarity.
I am concerned about what is happening with our rail line in Newcastle. I believe that we need to ensure that the Government is acting clearly on that issue. I can say, hand on my heart, that I am there for my community in respect of that issue. I also want to ensure that we speak honestly in election campaigns. My dear friend the member for Strathfield has been through the ICAC process. Damage was done to her life and her political career when she was attacked by people with other agendas. It is important to ensure that that kind of behaviour does not happen and that it is not accepted.
I have been lucky enough to see elections being held in other countries on my travels around the world. People in some countries have to have their hands dyed when they vote to ensure that they vote only once. I have also seen people with low levels of literacy use symbols on ballot papers, which allows them to participate fully in the democratic process. Our universal ballot is a fairer electoral process, and that is important. It provides a level of safeguard against corruption because it makes it harder for people to buy votes. It is also important that we transfer some of the provisions in this bill into the Federal sphere and that we examine the Federal approach to this issue. We must ensure that the rigour that is being applied to us in terms of donation caps—the amounts that donors can provide to our campaigns—is applied to the Federal sphere. At the moment it is too easy for people to donate to different levels of parties and in so doing seek to influence the political debate in our country.
I have no issues with unions. As my Government friends have said, that is because Labor members know that unions are there for the workers—the men and women of our country who actually do the work and try to help each other—and are there for the general community. The unions have done a wonderful job of advocating on behalf of our community at different times. In conclusion, I commend the bill to the House. It is always good to see a government that is prepared to look for better ways to fight corruption and better ways to ensure that those who are corrupt are brought to account. I am pleased to state that the Opposition, with the very same commitment to integrity and honesty in politics, supports the bill.