Victorian state opposition unveils election promise for ‘strong’ IBAC and Ombudsman

Victoria’s state opposition has unveiled a pledge to boost funding for the state’s ombudsman and anti-corruption watchdog, to rebuild a “system of integrity and honesty in government”.

Under the opposition plan, the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) would regain broader powers for public hearings.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said under the pledge, the Coalition would pump an extra $10 million into IBAC’s budget per year and increase the Victorian Ombudsman’s funding by $2 million per year.

“We want to give respect back to those integrity watchdogs — that’s what Victorians expect us to do.”

“The Liberal National Party is focused on rebuilding our system of integrity and honesty in government and the Andrews government that’s focused on denigrating them and defunding them.” 

Requests for more funding for the independent bodies are a perennial issue in Victoria, with both IBAC and the Ombudsman regularly saying they need more to operate strongly.

In last year’s budget, treasurer Tim Pallas allocated $54 million for IBAC — an increase on previous years — and $20.2 million for the Ombudsman over the 2021-22 financial year.

Mr Pallas will hand down his next budget on Tuesday.

Manager of opposition business Kim Wells said the Liberal and National policy would also involve amendments to the Parliamentary Committees Act to allow the Joint Integrity and Oversight Committee to have budgetary oversight.

“Never again will they be subject to the whim of the Labor government or a future government,” she said.

“It will mean they will always be funded properly, and will always be subject to proper parliamentary scrutiny.”

Mr Guy said he would reverse a move from the Andrews government that meant most IBAC hearings are now held in private.

He said this was done “to weaken the IBAC’s oversight” and “to protect this government”.

Government already under scrutiny 

Labor won the 2018 state election in a landslide, and polling suggests the Coalition is unlikely to win in the November 2022 vote.

But Mr Guy’s election pledge could shift the focus to matters of integrity at a time when the government is already under scrutiny.

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