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Controversy fails to slow down ICAC laws

AAP logoAAP 15/11/2016

The NSW government is accused of "aiding and abetting corruption" and several investigations are in doubt as laws to overhaul the Independent Commission Against Corruption swept through parliament.

The bill to reform ICAC had been roundly attacked by the Labor opposition, former commissioners and incumbent chief Megan Latham, who will now be forced to reapply for a role at the corruption-fighting agency.

The agency will be restructured so it has three commissioners - two of whom need to agree to investigations before they go ahead.

Opposition Leader Luke Foley described the legislation as a blatant attempt to sack Ms Latham for overseeing an investigation into the Liberal Party donations scandal which resulted in 11 MPs being sidelined.

"This is the lowest point in several decades when it comes to the fight against corruption," Mr Foley said on Wednesday.

"It just makes it clear that no commissioner or commissioners will ever have the guts to inquire into any corruption inside the governing party of the state, whether it's a Labor or Liberal government, because Commissioner Latham was terminated for doing so."

But the legislation, which was introduced in parliament on Tuesday, swept through both houses in little more than a day with the support of the crossbenches.

It throws into doubt several ICAC investigations, notably Operation Credo which drew in former Labor minister Eddie Obeid and federal Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos.

Mr Foley said the bill showed that the premier had caved in to pressure from the Liberal right.

"The corrupt in this state are doing cartwheels because the premier's done their dirty work for them today," he said.

He told parliament Premier Mike Baird was terminating the corruption fighter.

"This premier, who poses as a Sunday school teacher, is aiding and abetting the corrupt," he said.

Mr Baird stood by the bill, arguing it would "deliver a stronger and fairer anti-corruption watchdog".

"We are implementing the recommendations of a bipartisan committee that was unanimous in its recommendations that were supported by Labor," Mr Baird told ABC radio.

"They have conveniently forgot that they were the ones that actually supported this."

The reforms have alarmed two former ICAC chiefs, Anthony Whealy and David Ipp, who say the move will severely weaken the watchdog.

Mr Whealy said the move would likely trouble the electorate.

"Now I don't think Mr Baird's corrupt, but I think the perception that he's paying her (Ms Latham) back for some sort of attack on the Liberal Party will be very apparent to the community," he told the ABC.

Ms Latham issued a blistering statement on Tuesday, describing the proposed changes as an "unprecedented attack on the independence and effectiveness of the commission as a leading anti-corruption agency".

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