Why COSBOA’s Peter Strong is calling for a federal corruption watchdog

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The chief executive of one of Australia’s key small business groups has thrown his support behind a federal anti-corruption commission, saying the outcome of the 2016 federal election shows there is a lack of confidence and trust in political leaders among the country’s voters.

In a blog post published on the Council of Small Business of Australia’s website, chief executive Peter Strong argues Australia needs a federal version of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in New South Wales.

A national body to tackle corruption has some support in Canberra, with the Greens Party long calling for a national anti-corruption body.

Labor Party leader Bill Shorten promised during the election campaign to reconvene a Senate committee that was examining if the government should establish such a body, after the committee’s inquiry was terminated once the election was called.

However, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had previously ruled out the idea when Senators Dio Wang and Glenn Lazarus linked the proposal to the Coalition’s Australian Building and Construction Commission Bill, which eventually provided Turnbull will the trigger he needed to call the double dissolution election.

Strong says the apparent lack of trust among voters at this month’s election is not “the normal lack of trust that exists wherever there are politics” but instead it’s “a lack of belief that we are being told the complete truth”.

“Certainly in the world of small business there is a broad concern that a few big businesses and a very few big unions will run the country,” Strong says.

“The way to foster confidence and trust is to be transparent. Parties and their leaders need to be believed and to do that they have to send a message to the biggest unions and businesses – ‘it’s not about you’.

“While Labor condemns big businesses and the Coalition condemns unions, the reality is they both should be condemning the few big businesses and big unions that scam Australia … Small business innovators are our future so let’s make room for them to innovate.”

Strong highlights key areas that he says show the need for a federal anti-corruption body, including competition policy and the operation of the building and construction, transport and superannuation industries. Workplace relations is another key area, he says.

“We still need to confront problems in workplace relations, particularly those around penalty rates where it is the unions that have pushed rates below awards for their members but demand that smaller business pay higher rates,” says Strong.

“We do need lower rates but we must also have equal rates across businesses in each industry sector.”

Strong calls for all political parties to “support the many not the powerful and wealthy few”.

“Let’s create transparency with a federal ICAC,” Strong says.

“The only people that should fear this are the dishonest, the vested, the greedy and the ethically challenged.”

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