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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 12 Hansard (Thursday, 1 November 2018) . . Page.. 4627 ..

I thank Mr Coe for tabling the Anti-corruption and Integrity Commission Bill, which helped move this important debate along. Whilst it made for a lot of reading, the fact that we had this bill as well as the government exposure draft meant that the committee and the general public were able to look at both pieces of legislation and the committee could do our best to extract the best parts from both.

The submissions we received and the subsequent evidence made clear that there were good things in both, and it was up to the committee to ensure that those good things were captured in our report. I sincerely hope we have done it justice.

As the chair mentioned in his tabling speech yesterday, there were a handful of points which various committee members made footnotes on, and where other members have done so I am sure they will speak to them if they wish. One issue where Mrs Dunne and I deviated from the majority of the committee was on the point of the powers of the commission in conducting a preliminary inquiry. Whilst we all acknowledged that the purpose of a preliminary inquiry is to ascertain whether there is enough prima facie evidence to proceed with a full investigation, the commission must have strong powers and the discretion to make certain calls, even early on.

Mrs Dunne and I were of the view that the commission’s powers in conducting a preliminary inquiry should be at least equivalent to that of an Assembly committee. On that basis we were of the view that certain compulsion powers with adequate protections and restrictions should be allowed in order to obtain evidence to make an informed decision about whether that evidence was sufficient to justify calling for a full-blown investigation.

The definition of corruption was an interesting discussion and the committee referred back to the previous select committee’s strong recommendation that the definition be drawn from the New South Wales legislation. The Chief Minister in his evidence acknowledged that the government’s exposure draft deviated somewhat from the New South Wales definition and, accordingly, the committee discussions resulted in a recommendation that the New South Wales definition be adopted but acknowledged that the inclusion of the definitions of serious and systemic corruption were appropriate.

On the issue of public versus private hearings, members may recall that there was quite a lot of discussion around this and the previous select committee’s recommendation was that it be left to the discretion of the commissioner based on a public interest test.

The evidence we received about the risk of this turning into a lawyers’ picnic with legal challenges perhaps frustrating the commissioner’s investigation gave us some food for thought. In my mind it was a matter of weighing up the need for transparency to foster public confidence, paying homage to that old adage that justice must be seen to be done, and the unduly harsh breach of someone’s privacy and damage to reputation in the event of the ultimate finding being that there was no corruption.

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