Peter Dutton says the opposition is talking to the Albanese government “in good faith” regarding Labor’s national anti-corruption commission bill to be introduced next week.
The Liberal leader on Friday reiterated his support for the anti-corruption commission (Nacc) but warned against powers so extensive they could result in “show trials” or “protracted investigations”.
Dutton refused to be drawn into a “clause-by-clause” analysis of the bill when talking to reporters but said he had “spoken to the prime minister about the issue and we continue that in good faith”.
On 30 May, after his election as Liberal leader, Dutton gave in-principle support for independent MP Helen Haines’ bill from the previous parliament, warning of the “unholy alliance” between Labor and the construction, electrical trades and maritime unions.
But asked on Friday if he supported the Haines bill or Labor’s version, Dutton said the opposition would “continue our discussions with the government … that’s been the direction of my party room”.
“I support the principle ... and the form of that and the way in which we want to work with the government. We will make more comment on that in due course.”
The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, will introduce Labor’s bill into the House of Representatives next week before a joint select committee inquiry and possible final vote in the Senate in November.
The bill will face amendments from Haines, Senator David Pocock, the Greens and others to protect whistleblowers and allow the Nacc to investigate parties outside the public sector even if they don’t have contracts with the government.
Labor’s majority in the lower house means it will pass there but cooperation from the Coalition would allow the bill to pass the Senate without amendment or the need for Greens’ support.
Dutton said there was “no place for corruption at any level of government” and he would consider what powers the commission required.
“At the same time, as we’ve seen in [the states], public servants are caught up in this,” he said. “We’ve seen people commit suicide as a result of show trials and false allegations that have been made against them, [and] protracted investigations that go on for years.”
Asked if the Nacc should have powers to investigate stakeholders outside government even if they had no public sector contracts, Dutton said he supported a body that “roots out corruption wherever it exists”.
Asked specifically about unions, Dutton noted if they provided training services, they would already be captured by the bill.
Crossbenchers have criticised the possibility of a major party deal.
Pocock said: “The major parties teaming up to agree to a watered down integrity commission would be flipping the bird to the strongest message the electorate sent at the election. Australians want more integrity. That’s never been more clear.”
Independent MP Zoe Daniel said a deal would “compound cynicism in an already cynical electorate”.
Earlier on Thursday, Pocock agreed with Haines and the Greens by arguing the Nacc should be able to investigate third parties, such as political donors or those affected by government decision-making.
“We know that a lot of corruption starts with people potentially getting in touch with politicians, whether they’re business people, unions, developers,” Pocock told the ABC. “This body needs to be able to actually investigate them and bring them before the integrity commission.”