Premier Mike Baird has announced new powers for ICAC.
Premier Mike Baird has announced new powers for ICAC. Trevor Veale

ICAC powers broadened and narrowed in one fell swoop

UPDATE: THE Law Society of NSW has given support to a plan to limit the state's political corruption watchdog's powers to only cover "serious" corrupt conduct.

"The Law Society recognises the importance of ICAC in ensuring no person is above the law," CEO Michael Tidball said.

"However, given the High Court judgment in ICAC v Cunneen it is appropriate that the Commission's powers be more clearly defined.

"This will help to restore community confidence in its findings.

"The decision to limit ICAC's power to make findings of corrupt conduct to cases where the corrupt conduct is "serious" may assist to do so." 


EARLIER: NEW South Wales' anti-corruption watchdog has had its wings clipped on one hand and broadened on the other under a raft of new reforms.

Premier Mike Baird announced the Independent Commission Against Corruption would be given new powers to investigate corrupt conduct by non-public officials.

But its scope to make findings of corrupt conduct will be limited to only include cases where that conduct is deemed "serious".

"I have said many times that we have zero tolerance for corruption in NSW, which means a robust ICAC," Mr Baird said.

"That is why we are today taking significant measures to consolidate ICAC's jurisdiction, following the High Court judgement in ICAC v Cunneen, while acknowledging that the jurisdiction is narrower than the ICAC previously understood."

The Cunneen case revealed cracks within ICAC's powers when the watchdog investigated Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen over claims she schooled her son's girlfriend on how to avoid a breath test after a car accident.

ICAC's investigation was later deemed void on appeal because Cunneen was not in public office.

Mr Baird said only specific criminal acts of non-public officials that could "impair public confidence in public administration" would come under ICAC's jurisdiction, such as collusive tendering for government contracts and fraudulently obtaining government mining leases.

The Electoral Commission will also be able to refer investigations to ICAC for suspected serious breaches of electoral and lobbying laws.

The Greens are expected to introduce a private bill to the Australian Senate on Thursday calling for a national corruption watchdog to be established.

The NSW Bar Association and NSW Law Society have been contacted for comment.