What are the lessons to be learned
from the Vizard scandal? First, that ASIC is incapable of investigating
and prosecuting criminal matters. They have neither the ability nor the
resources to do so. ASIC may be (barely) adequate as a regulatory
authority, but it cannot do the job as criminal investigators. The task
of investigating corporate criminal matters should be given to the
Australian federal police. We need professional police to be handling
this, not accountants or ex-policemen.

Second, the Commonwealth
DPP needs to be given a good shake up. There is no doubt that the
advice it (apparently) gave to ASIC that Vizard could not (or should
not) be prosecuted was wrong advice. Costello promised that the DPP’s
advice would be made public after Vizard’s hearing. Yesterday we saw
the DPP (Damian Bugg) give a poor performance in trying to explain what
went wrong. What he should have done is apologise to the Australian
public for this whole disgraceful scandal, not justify it.

Costello has not released THE advice actually given to ASIC at the
time. Bugg’s explanation is not THE advice: it is an ex post facto
backside covering exercise. Costello must honour his promise and make
public the advice ASIC received at the time from the DPP – otherwise
Costello risks becoming part of the cover-up.

Finally, we need
to have a “Palmer-Department of Immigration” type inquiry into the
functioning of ASIC and the Commonwealth DPP in the Vizard case and
more generally. In the end, the position is that corporate crooks will
not go to jail until the system is fixed.

CRIKEY: A statement by DPP Damian Bugg is available here.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey