Page 4499 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 31 October 2018
A majority of the committee has recommended the definition of the public officials who can be covered by the integrity commission should also include the judiciary and judicial officers. This has been a point of some contention, considering issues around the separation of powers, but the committee was clear in its deliberations that this is not about breaching the separation of powers but that the integrity commission will have more powers than the judicial commission to make an investigation but ultimately not decide a finding of guilt nor the punishment, but simply be the investigatory body.
The committee also gave some consideration to the issue of confidentiality of complaints, whether, when somebody lodges a complaint with the integrity commission, the integrity commission will then conduct its investigation confidentially in the first instance before deciding whether to go to a public hearing. There was a question of whether we should require the complainant to in fact remain confidential. The committee ultimately resolved that this was impractical and that there was not a way one could do it but that we do pick up provisions from the New South Wales legislation which remove some of the protections available to complainants, should they decide to themselves publicly disclose that they have made a complaint. And that goes to issues such as defamation and the like.
The committee did spend some time considering the issue of the relationship between the ACT’s various integrity agencies, and there was a very clear view in the committee that, whilst the integrity commission will have pre-eminent powers when it comes to investigating matters of corruption, other agencies play important roles; that there should be very clear relationships between those agencies; that we would expect that MOUs would be established; and that there should be a high degree of cooperation where matters are passed between agencies, depending on who is considered to be the most appropriate to investigate it. Whilst that seeks to not compromise the independence of agencies such as the Auditor-General and others—the Ombudsman—we think that that will be a way to ensure there are no gaps but also no duplication.
The issue of public hearings is one that has attracted considerable discussion, it would be fair to say. The committee ultimately formed the view that the balance in the current exposure draft is the right balance, where the test would be one of public interest and seeking to draw the balance between people’s right to privacy and protection of reputation but at the same time recognising the clear public interest in having some degree of public scrutiny and visibility of the hearings process.
I will not speak any further to the report. I think it is largely self-explanatory. The report overall is a unanimous report. But I do note that there are, I think, four or five places where individual members of the committee have made some footnotes where there was not complete agreement in the committee. But overall the committee has formed a unanimous report.
I would like to simply conclude by thanking my colleagues on the committee. It has been a very constructive and thoughtful process. It is complex legislation. There is a lot of it, particularly having to compare two bills. But I think the committee worked in