Federal crossbench MPs will introduce legislation establishing a national anti-corruption body in coming weeks, placing pressure on the federal government to implement greater oversight of parliamentarians, lobbyists and public servants. Independent MP Cathy McGowan said a 200-page draft bill was being prepared in consultation with governance expert AJ Brown, to be finalised by the time parliament resumes later this month. Incoming member for Wentworth, Kerryn Phelps, promised on Wednesday to push for “a National Integrity Commission”, increasing the likelihood of a tied vote if the bill comes to the House of Representatives. Former Supreme Court of Victoria justice David Harper added his voice to the push, writing in Fairfax newspapers on Wednesday that “the lack of a federal anti-corruption agency remains a reason why we have never come close to being corruption-free”.
The family of a 20-year-old apprentice metalworker who died in a Melbourne factory has questioned why he was sent to the workplace by the Australian Industry Group, despite a report a month earlier identifying serious safety hazards. Dillon Wu died in October after inhaling toxic fumes while working at a factory owned by tanker company Marshall Lethlean. Wu’s employer, Ai Group, sent him to Marshall Lethlean on placement a month after receiving a WorkSafe Victoria report warning of serious health and safety risks for employees working in confined spaces. Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said “our indications were and continue to be that it was a safe place of work”. Members of the dead man’s family said Ai Group had not contacted them since his death, but had sent flowers through a florist. “The minimum human morality for the agency is to come over to give us a reasonable explanation,” Dillon’s father told the ABC.
Health minister Greg Hunt has extended the opt-out period for the controversial My Health Record online medical records system, bowing to pressure from the Senate. A Labor attempt to push the deadline back by 12 months was defeated, with crossbenchers agreeing instead to a three-month extension, ending on January 31. People trying to opt out of the system before the original November 15 deadline reported widespread problems, including website outages and swamped phone lines. More than 1 million people have opted out of the service, with cybersecurity experts warning against the potential for breaches of privacy and abuses of sensitive information.
And environment minister Melissa Price has hit out at international development minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells for describing her as “an environment minister on L-plates”. Writing for Fairfax on Wednesday, Fierravanti-Wells said Price had damaged the government’s “good work and practical support for the Pacific” by insulting former Kiribati president Anote Tong at a Canberra dinner in October, saying Price’s behaviour “demonstrated a lack of diplomacy, understanding and respect for one of our nearest neighbours”. Labor senator Pat Dodson and others present at the dinner claimed Price told Tong “I know why you’re here … For the Pacific it’s all about the cash”. Price told ABC Radio National’s Patricia Karvelas that she was “deeply, deeply wounded” by the comments from Fierravanti-Wells, saying “I can assure there will be a few phone calls once I get off the phone from talking to you, Patricia”.