Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 13 Hansard (Thursday, 29 November 2018) . . Page.. 5128 ..
established to ensure that confidence is well placed. The ACT Judicial Commission and Judicial Council currently investigate complaints and concerns in relation to ACT judicial officers. This framework is robust and independent and the government has full confidence in its ability to perform its important role in oversighting the operations of judicial officers.
The ACT government has carefully considered the select committee’s recommendation that the integrity commission cover judicial officers. Following consultation with the ACT Greens and the ACT Liberals, it has accepted that recommendation. Our original exposure draft legislation excluded most functions in relation to judicial officers.
The judiciary play a unique and important role that clearly differs from the role played by public servants and the members of this Assembly. It is important that any oversight system protect and respect judicial independence and the principles of the separation of powers. In including them within the scope of this commission, we must be mindful of that independence and be careful of the legal and practical implications of having judges investigated by an integrity commission.
A key constraint on including judges is that the integrity commission cannot become an avenue for unhappy litigants to seek review of a judge’s decisions. This is a fundamental separation of powers issue. Neither the government nor the parliament is placed to act as an appeal body in relation to a judge’s legal rulings. That is a function that is solely for the courts. Our legislation reflects this basic and fundamental separation of powers issue by specifically excluding complaints about the merits of a judicial decision, orders from a judge or judgements.
We will continue to monitor how this framework applies to the courts with a view to ensuring not only the integrity of our justice system but also attending to the principles that underlie our democratic system and the self-government act. Ultimately, everyone who will be part of this new integrity framework can be confident that they will be afforded a fair and transparent process.
The ACT has cause to be proud of many aspects of this bill. I would like to direct the Assembly’s attention to the bill’s carefully tailored human rights safeguards. The government is committed to establishing an integrity commission that is consistent with human rights. The bill ensures that the integrity commission will be able to effectively investigate and expose corrupt conduct without unreasonably limiting the human rights of those being investigated or involved in investigations.
For example, the integrity commission cannot use seriously coercive and invasive powers until a preliminary inquiry on allegations of corrupt conduct has been finalised. Additional protections apply once a preliminary inquiry has been completed and an investigation has begun. The integrity commission decision to hold a public or private examination is determined on the unique facts of each situation on a case by case basis. The question of whether examinations are held in public or private will be a matter for the commissioner based on a careful weighing of public interest and human rights considerations. This helps to protect the human rights to privacy and reputation.