In short:

South Australia’s ICAC Commissioner, Ann Vanstone, has resigned.

In a public statement, Ann Vanstone said her decision to resign was prompted by “a number of factors, some personal, but most professional”.

What’s next?

She will formally leave the role in September.

South Australia’s anti-corruption commissioner has quit saying she has “run out of steam” after the state’s integrity laws were watered down nearly three years ago.

In a public statement, Ann Vanstone said her decision to resign was prompted by “a number of factors, some personal, but most professional”.

She said on “multiple occasions” she had pointed out to the former and current governments, and the parliamentary committee which oversees SA’s Independent Commission Against Corruption, the significant problems the revised scheme had.

In September 2021, reforms which stripped ICAC of many of its powers passed through both houses of the South Australian Parliament unopposed, within 24 hours of being introduced.

She said the legislation was not “wholly unworkable,” but it needed to be “as robust and effective as possible”.

“I have not asked for the previous scheme to be restored,” she said in a statement.

“I have recommended modest reform and an independent review of the amendments to see how effective they are.

“My words have fallen on deaf ears.”

Commissioner Vanstone said there were two reasons why she had decided to stay on after the reforms had been passed.

“I perhaps naively expected that the weaknesses and issues I have identified would be addressed,” she said.

“That has not happened and I have no confidence that it would, even if I stayed until the end of my term.”

“Most importantly, I have stayed for the staff, to help them retain faith that the work they do is important and valuable, notwithstanding the attacks on the Commission.

“But I have run out of steam.”

The legislation which stripped ICAC of many of its powers passed through both houses of parliament unopposed in 2021.(Independent Commissioner Against Corruption SA)

Commissioner Vanstone said the 2021 reforms “damaged” the state’s public integrity scheme and argued the public interest is not served by “narrowing the definition of corruption.”

“Or by isolating the Commission from the intelligence sources constituted by all complaints and reports, or by completely divorcing us from the prosecution process so that we are unable to assist a prosecution,” she said.

Commissioner Vanstone is South Australia’s second ICAC Commissioner, after succeeding Bruce Lander in 2020.

She will formally leave the role in September.

South Australian Attorney-General Kyam Maher thanked Ms Vanstone for her services and confirmed the government will start recruiting for her replacement “in the coming weeks.”

Geoffrey Watson SC slammed the speed at which the ICAC legislation was changed in SA, and said it was incredibly sad to see Commissioner Ann Vanstone submit her resignation.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)

SA ICAC ‘weakest in Australia’

Geoffrey Watson SC, Director for the Centre of Public Integrity said South Australia’s integrity system is “the weakest in Australia” and “not fit for purpose”.

“The most powerful is the New South Wales ICAC. Queensland and Western Australia are pretty good … the worst in the whole of the Commonwealth, I’m sorry to say, is South Australia,” he said.

“It’s so sad, this is so sad, because Commissioner Vanstone has been working very hard with her team down at ICAC to try to get the legislation re-done so that there can be decent powers given back to ICAC so it can do its job.”

Mr Watson criticised the speed at which the laws which watered down ICAC’s powers passed through parliament.

“It went through parliament, literally, in 24 hours,” he said.

“It was also done without any open consultation, so that the public, the experts, the stakeholders, none of us were allowed to see what it was, we were just hit with the fact and then it passed.”

“It was just ridiculous, it’s absurd, it could not have been an honest attempt by parliamentarians to review the legislation which they were passing.”

Mr Watson said the changes to the legislation meant ICAC were no longer able to review and investigate what politicians, senior bureaucrats and the public sector were doing.

“The worst thing you can have in the community is corruption in the public sector — why? — because the whole of the community starts losing faith in the process,” he said.

“When you lose faith in the process people disengage.

“They say ‘why do things honestly if the people who are making the laws are not doing that themselves?’ — it sets up a rot.”

Posted , updated