Tanberg A promise was  made before the 2010 election, by the then opposition leader, that an Independent- Broad-Based- Anti corruption – Commission (IBAC), closely modeled on the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), would be established.

The IBAC  has very little power by comparison, containing a narrow definition of corrupt conduct. For example,  “being conduct that would, if the facts were found proved beyond reasonable doubt at a trial”.              Click to enlarge Tandberg cartoon

In contrast, ICAC’s jurisdiction is very widely expressed and it  is entitled to investigate “any allegation or complaint that, or any circumstances which, in the Commissioner’s opinion imply that … corrupt conduct … may have occurred, may be occurring or may be about to occur.”

“The IBAC must not conduct an investigation unless

it is reasonably satisfied that the conduct is serious corrupt conduct”. In contrast the NSW  ICAC has much broader powers to start an investigation. “Corrupt conduct” is defined in the ICAC Act as including any activity that could adversely affect directly or indirectly the exercise of official functions by a public official, together with a broad variety of particular offences.

Investigations conducted by the NSW Commission (ICAC) involving the planning system have aptly demonstrated the corruption risks of a much wider discretion. Below are excerpts from an (ICAC) document;

“It requires no great leap of faith to suggest that anyone who has discretion to grant development approval, to rezone or to depart from stated requirements – whether they are elected officials or professional officers, and regardless of their level and political persuasion – is at risk of corrupt approaches. The greater the departure from the previous norm, the greater the corruption risk. This is partly because of the huge windfall profits that can result from a change in planning rules”.  

The only area in which the commission believes it needs to make a recommendation concerning the roles of councillors is the absence of a requirement in current legislation for giving reasons for approval;   Particular concern has been expressed in submissions about councillors giving consents against the recommendations of council officers. The commission is of the view that the absence of reasons does not necessarily suggest corrupt conduct , however, it considers that reasons should be given for all development decisions”.

Victoria’s integrity regime will likely have to wait until next year, as both major parties blame each other for the delay in amending the Victorian IBAC to have similar powers to the NSW’s ICAC.


  1. Hepburn says:

    If a high rise development proposal is amended, often a complete redesign as a result of flaws identified by objectors, authorities are not statutorily required to start a new period of advertising and community consultation. This power is entirely at the planning authority’s discretion. This has resulted in allegations of corruption based on the degree of change between the development proposal originally lodged and that finally approved by the responsible authority.

  2. Steven L says:

    Advertising and community consultation should begin as soon as practical after the developers plan is finalised. Apparently the planning authority can ask for, or the applicant may submit, an amended proposal far different to the plans presented for councillor approval and at odds with what had been exhibited during the consultation period. This means further Councillor scrutiny is avoided and community concerns raised in the initial submissions can be discounted on the grounds that they are no longer relevant.

  3. Whittens says:

    The NSW ICAC made the following recommendations to manage potential conflicts of interest when engaging planning consultants, to the extent possible.
    These include:
    Promoting competitive processes for the selection of consultants and regularly rotating their use.

    Consideration to the matters that are allocated to consultants. Local consultants who continue to work in the private sector while being contracted by a council be allocated applications for minor development, such as home extensions, rather than applications for significant development.

    Preparing contracts for consultants that include:

    A requirement that consultants declare any personal conflicts of interest that may emerge throughout their engagement, for example, where they are currently engaged in private capacity by a client with an interest in the work they are performing for council;

    Consequences for failure to comply with contractual requirements such as the declaration of conflicts of interest;

    A prohibition on consultants working for specified clients that would present a conflict during the term of the contract;

    A requirement that consults make a declaration on their final report that they had no personal pecuniary or non-pecuniary in the matter or its outcome;

    A requirement that consultants be bound by a set of guiding principles such as a code of ethics.

  4. Valcurl says:

    A revamped IBAC would need to go further and have the planning departments of councils take full responsibility for some of the shonky consultants reports that accompany many major development applications. There is strong evidence that they are not being scrutinised which invites suspicion of collusion and even fraud.
    Complaints about false and misleading reports have come under sharp focus with calls made by the community to make consultants more accountable.
    The poor quality of the work, in relation to planning, has been a sore point in recent years amidst an increasing demand for more scrutiny and transparency including a requirement of councils to publish consultants reports on their website.

  5. Dave says:

    Corruption is such a pejorative word to use. It is not so much corruption for personal gain but more to do with covering up for laziness and incompetence.

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