ICAC’s Latest Probe Wows Public, But Sloppy Ryde Inquiry May Cause Lasting Damage

At last, a very useful public discussion has kicked off – about what role NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption actually plays. And what self-inflicted damage can it sustain with sloppy, bungled and unjustified inquiries like the one into Ryde?

Is ICAC’s role a valuable one? Is it misunderstood? Do we really need it? If you haven’t read the March 22 column of The Australian’s Peter van Onselen – you really ought to!


Thankyou Peter, you have restored my faith in journalism. You’ve shown you’re a rare journalist indeed. One who is willing to strip away perception-based and spin-driven clutter to serve his readership and tell it how it is. ICAC is indeed a Star Chamber – and it’s well and truly found its niche in the besmirching business. If anything positive has come out of the excessive media focus on Arthur Sinodinos, it’s the realisation that ICAC urgently needs its wings clipped.

“The Independent Commission against Corruption in NSW, as well as similar star chambers in other states and federally, are very good at one thing in particular: besmirching reputations,” writes Van Onselen.

“There are no obligations on ICAC to adhere to rules of evidence that would maximise the chances of obtaining convictions for wrongdoing further down the track when wrongdoing is in fact found to have occurred.

“This is just one reason why, even though ICAC is good at besmirching people, it isn’t very good at achieving prosecutorial outcomes.”

Van Onselen says “all of this happens in full public view, meaning that the media selectively reports on matters, often stripping away what little context the proceedings may provide. ICAC hearings are akin to legal bullying.” Spot on. Unfortunately Peter, your journo colleagues don’t have your work ethic or your commitment to digging beneath the surface for the benefit of readers/viewers/browsers etc.

“If you haven’t read Peter van Onselen’s March 22 column in The Australian’s  – you really should!”
The ICAC Ryde Inquiry for Dummies

At first glance, the Ryde ICAC inquiry would make your eyes glaze over. But take in the backstory and it may well become one of the anti-corruption watchdog’s biggest stuff-ups.

ICAC’s an underwhelming watchdog that has well and truly outgrown its usefulness. Make no mistake, the over the top spotlight and coverage of Senator Sinodinos was planned and orchestrated by the ICAC, which without a doubt has also given the media a heads up to whip them into a frenzy. ICAC has accumulated so much pervasive power, gifted to it by successive governments since its inception, that it thinks nothing of misusing it or applying it to crusades that aren’t even in the public interest.

It’s time for a comprehensive audit of ICAC’s powers, removing those it can’t justify keeping and at the same time, there also needs to be significant reinforcement of accountability measures, particularly when it comes to its operational decision making. Now at last, after Sinodinos’ treatment by the ICAC, there has been some public commentary on whether ICAC’s role needs review.

It’s essential those questions continue to be asked. Testimony to ICAC’s low altitude flying is its public inquiry into Ryde, a ridiculous waste of taxpayer funds pursuing unremarkable and trivial matters, which almost certainly are politically motivated. The Ryde stuff isn’t particularly satisfying or attractive for media – but its mishandling may well turn out to be the most compelling argument for an all-encompassing review into the processes and methods used by the rabid watchdog. For your convenience, you can click below to read Van Onselen’s article… Peter van Onselen – The Weekend Australian – 22 Mar 2014 – Page #20


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