Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 13 Hansard (29 November) . . Page.. 5154 ..
MR COE (Yerrabi—Leader of the Opposition) (6.10): I move amendment No 13 circulated in my name [see schedule 1 at page 5201]. Just as we spoke about the suspension of a commissioner, if we are to terminate a commissioner's appointment, we should have two-thirds of this place; otherwise it could be, albeit in an extreme situation, that somebody does not like the way that the commissioner is investigating a certain issue and that issue could be stalled before an election or for any other reason without going before this place. So I think it is reasonable that we have a two-thirds vote of the Assembly before we allow for an investigation to be interrupted by the termination of a commissioner.
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) (6.11): For the same reasons that were outlined on the previous amendment, the government will not be supporting this one.
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (6.12): I refer to my earlier comments. I listened to what Mr Coe just said. To be honest, I think that if the majority of this parliament removed an integrity commissioner just before an election to try to cover something up, the Canberra community would see right through that. We take the view, as I said earlier, that this sets a different bar that we do not see as necessary.
MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (6.12): Madam Speaker, as we go through this legislation, there are a whole lot of bars which are different in this legislation from other places. The suspension process is much more complex than it is for the Clerk of the Assembly or any other officer of the Legislative Assembly. By drafting the legislation the way we have, we have said that this is special, this is different, this is a cut above.
This is one of the areas in relation to the sacking of a commissioner where we need to be very careful. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that a majority government would move to do away with the commissioner because he is inconvenient, he is doing inconvenient things.
We have seen in the past how governments have responded to inconvenient Auditor-General's reports. We saw a previous Chief Minister lose his temper with an Auditor-General and say, "Okay, we are going to have a performance audit of the Auditor-General's Office." That was clear retaliation against the performance of the Auditor-General. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that a desperate government would use its simple majority to do away with this.
A two-thirds majority means that there has to be substantial cross-party support. Essentially, the government and the opposition will have to agree. In the same way that they have to agree to the appointment, they would have to agree that the conduct of this person is sufficiently egregious that they need to be removed. This means that the commissioner would not be the subject of the whim of the government of the time. As we see the way the votes coalesce in this place at the moment, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the minor party supporter of a government might come on board even if there were a minority government.