The South Australian Liberal Party’s use of the NationBuilder campaign software has been referred to the Office of Public Integrity (OPI) for assessment of potential misconduct or maladministration issues.
- SA ombudsman referred the use of NationBuilder by the State Liberal Party to the Office of Public Integrity
- The ABC revealed that visitors to official state government websites were redirected through the Liberal Party’s NationBuilder account.
- ICAC Says Changes To Its Powers Would Create “Shelter For Politicians”
State Ombudsman Wayne Lines revealed the news to a parliamentary committee this morning.
The use of NationBuilder was the subject of several exclusive articles on ABC in April, which revealed that visitors to official state government websites were redirected through the Liberal Party‘s NationBuilder account.
NationBuilder can be used to create a database of individual profiles by collecting email addresses and phone numbers, and tracking a user’s behavior on third-party websites.
At the time, Prime Minister Steven Marshall denied that the government deliberately collected data through redirects through government websites.
The state’s privacy committee later concluded that it was “likely” that the government had not facilitated the collection of unauthorized data from users of the government website.
But before the Parliamentary Committee on Crime and Public Integrity Policy this morning, ombudsman Wayne Lines said he had conducted his own assessment of the information, before referring the matter to the Office of Public Integrity. .
âI have completed my assessment and the information I have is that the error or problem is not from a government body over which I have jurisdiction,â he said.
When asked if the problem had arisen with the Liberal Party, Mr. Lines replied “yes”.
“So you discovered cases of corruption, maladministration and misconduct and referred them to the OPI?” Asked Labor leader Tom Koutsantonis.
“Yes”, replied the Mediator.
âOn behalf of a political party, the Liberal Party?
Mr Lines said he had not established factual evidence of the data collection, but called the case “potential” misconduct or maladministration.
He said he had not heard whether the OPI had advanced the matter.
The OPI has the power to refer cases of misconduct or maladministration to other agencies, including the Independent Commissioner against Corruption (ICAC), for investigation.
Mr Lines said he had informed the Prime Minister’s Office of the referral.
At a press conference, Mr. Marshall was asked about the ombudsman’s evidence moments after it was presented.
“A dismissal is not a determination of guilt and I think that has always been the problem,” said Mr. Marshall.
âWe made it clear that there was no data collection, there was no data collection and I think it turned out to be completely and totally factual.
“It was a real media frenzy for weeks, if not months, I think, where the media made some pretty outrageous allegations which all turned out to be completely and utterly incorrect.”
Government is considering bill to deprive the ICAC of certain powers
The revelation came as the government revealed it was planning to vote today for an SA Best bill that would strip the ICAC of its power to investigate misconduct and maladministration, with some amendments.
The bill drew a scathing rebuke from current ICAC Ann Vanstone, who told the parliamentary committee that the bill would “dismantle” the ICAC and build “a shelter for politicians.”
“If this bill or a similar bill passes Parliament, it will be clear that politicians do not want ICAC in South Australia,” she said.
“It’s that simple.
âThe first thing about this bill that strikes you in the eye is that the shelter for politicians, meaning parliamentary privilege, has to be built into a 20-foot wall.
Two MPs, Troy Bell and Fraser Ellis, currently face criminal charges following ICAC investigations, while other country MPs are still actively investigated into their use of allowances parliamentarians.
Ms Vanstone said it was “extraordinary” that MPs could vote on the bill to restrict the jurisdiction and powers of the ICAC.
âWhere else in this state could such a conflict of interest be tolerated? ” she said.
Ms Vanstone said the bill would prevent the ICAC from launching an investigation without first receiving a complaint.
“It is an important power,” she said.
âThe assessment and surveys of all member countries were initiated by [former commissioner Bruce Lander] in this way.
âIf this bill passes, I could read information about potential corruption in the newspaper, but I will be powerless to investigate unless it is reported to the OPI and referred to me.
Ms Vanstone said the bill would make it difficult for the ICAC to investigate NationBuilder complaints, which had been referred by the ombudsman to the OPI.
âUnder this bill, I wouldn’t see these complaints at allâ¦ because the OPI would send them to the ombudsman,â Ms. Vanstone said.
Treasurer Rob Lucas previously told ABC Radio Adelaide that many members of the government supported reform of the ICAC.
He said the government would consider supporting the bill presented by SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo, with significant amendments.
“We are still discussing the elements of these new amendments,” Lucas said.
âThe question of whether a corruption commission should focus on corruption rather than other areas, such as malpractice assessments, is certainly a point of view that I have had for a long time.
“We have other bodies, the ombudsman, the Office of Public Integrity, the Auditor General … to look at a whole variety of other areas of maladministration within government administration.”