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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (14 February) . . Page.. 98 ..

MR OSBORNE (continuing):

public service already contains a Public Administration Commissioner, but this person has no proactive role in the employment process.

The senior appointments commissioner would be chosen through a process involving both the Chief Minister and an Assembly committee (most likely the public accounts committee). The Chief Minister would forward a nomination to the committee. If a majority of the committee were in agreement, the appointment would be made. If a majority of the committee did not agree, the Chief Minister would then put forward an alternative candidate for consideration. Members may recognise that this process is the same one used to appoint our Auditor-General.

The term of appointment would be seven years, with the conditions of employment fixed by the Remuneration Tribunal. The successful candidate would be eligible for reappointment, and the positions of senior appointments commissioner and Public Administration Commissioner may be jointly held by the same person. The senior appointments commissioner would be charged to work independently of government and have input into all aspects of the employment of executives at all levels, including hiring, transfer and removal from office. From time to time, they would also be responsible for reviewing the functions of each department's chief executive and producing an annual report for the Assembly.

The second main initiative of this bill is establishing a new process for the hiring of chief executives. This process has four stages. (Extension of time granted.) Stage 1: the senior appointments commissioner advertises a vacancy and prepares a list of candidates in order of merit. Candidates must be selected on their merit and have certain legislated capabilities. This list is then forwarded to the responsible minister.

Stage 2: The minister could either approve a candidate from the list or reject all candidates. If all candidates on the list are rejected, the commissioner would then prepare another list of candidates for consideration. Stage 3: If approved, the minister forwards the candidate to an Assembly committee, most likely the PAC. The committee considers the candidate and, if approved by a majority of its number, notification is sent to the Chief Minister. The committee would also send a report to the Assembly. If the committee rejected the candidate, the minister would select an alternative candidate for consideration. Stage 4: Once a candidate has been approved by all three bodies, the Chief Minister would then make the appointment.

I would like to pause here briefly to explain my reasoning behind involving an Assembly committee in the process of employing a chief executive. I will understand some reluctance by the major parties to accept stage 3, but I believe this is a matter of transparency and accountability. The employment of a chief executive is a serious matter and deserves more attention than has been apparent in recent years. I believe that requiring the approval of an Assembly committee is a positive step and should not be misinterpreted as an unworkable hindrance to the government of the day.

Obviously, good and competent candidates with an interest in serving the public interest will be approved by this process. However, obvious political nominations may not. It is not intended for this committee process to be handled in the American way, with a series of public hearings and general hoop-la. This phenomenon has not occurred when the public accounts committee has previously been involved in appointing the Auditor-

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