Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 13 Hansard (29 November) . . Page.. 5151 ..
MR COE (Yerrabi—Leader of the Opposition) (5.57): I move amendment No 9—of 94, by the way—circulated in my name [see schedule 1 at page 5201]. We are of the view that the bill is flawed in allowing for preferential treatment of judges to the exclusion of other qualified or more suitable candidates. There may be circumstances where a lawyer of more than 10 years standing is a better candidate, based on their experience, than a judge, and because of this section, the judge is selected by virtue of the fact that they have been a judge, regardless of all other considerations.
This, to me, sounds absolutely crazy. We should be able to appoint the best person for the job, regardless of whether they have been a judge, a magistrate or otherwise. The appointment process should be based on merit, and it should simply allow for the best person to get the job.
MR BARR (Kurrajong—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Social Inclusion and Equality, Minister for Tourism and Special Events and Minister for Trade, Industry and Investment) (5.58): The government will not be supporting this amendment. It is our view that the nature and importance of the integrity commissioner role mean that this structured selection process is justified. But the government is of the view that if you, Madam Speaker, are unable to find a suitable former judge to be appointed as the commissioner, the selection committee can expand the pool to consider a lawyer of 10 years practice.
MR COE (Yerrabi—Leader of the Opposition) (5.59): There are many people who could fit the bill that are quite eminent. For instance, imagine somebody who has been special counsel at a royal commission, somebody who has led a prosecution service or somebody who has led other similar bodies elsewhere in the country. They must be excluded if any judge or magistrate applies for the job. They cannot get this job if any of them put an application in. It is absolutely crazy that we would do that.
Further to this, it is also a potential excuse to delay the establishment of the commission. Whilst I have no problem with a judge or magistrate being looked at favourably by the commission because of their skill set, I do not think it should be to the detriment of any other candidate.
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (6.00): We will not be supporting this amendment by Mr Coe. We have reflected on this. I think that, given the seriousness of the role and the general acceptance that a former judge would be the most suitable candidate, the wording does require the Speaker to consider applicants first and, if there is no suitable applicant, consider other applicants. I think this provides guidance as to the expectations of the legislature. I do not know that it goes as far as Mr Coe has described it. This is the nature of some of the amendments. A subtle reading of the legislation obviously will be important, but I do not think it is as severe as Mr Coe has described it, and we will not be supporting the amendment.
That the amendment be agreed to.