The national anti-corruption commission inquiry handed down its findings this week. While supporting all of the report’s recommendations the NSW Council for Civil Liberties is deeply concerned that the proposed model will greatly constrain the Commissioner’s power to hold public hearings even when the commissioner is satisfied that a public hearing would be in the public interest.
The imposition of the additional vague and unnecessary ‘exceptional circumstances’ constraint should be removed from the Bill. As is clear from the experience of the Victorian IBAC this requirement will significantly constrain the capacity of the NACC to hold public hearings.
In our experience public hearings are critical for the building of the public’s knowledge of the work of such bodies. If the ‘exceptional circumstances’ constraint is retained it will likely undermine future public confidence in the NACC.
“The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has long advocated the urgent need for a strong national anti- corruption body” said Josh Pallas, President NSWCCL.
“We welcome the commitment of the Attorney-General and the Albanese Government to act quickly to bring this overdue national integrity body to fruition, however, we have concerns about the NACC’s ability to hold public hearings.”
“The private hearing default position is a surprising and disappointing departure from the position the Government strongly supported while in Opposition.”
“NSWCCL has engaged with the various proposals for such a body over the last decade. In doing so the Council has built on our close observation of the NSW ICAC and the numbers of reviews of that body; as well as various proposals for a national-anti-corruption body. It is our view, based on the available evidence, that public hearings result in a more effective body and greater transparency.”
“Public hearings that are deemed to be in the public interest are immensely important to the overall success of the NACC in building community awareness of and confidence in the work of the agency, as well as potentially eliciting new information in relation to matters under investigation.”
“We will strongly support an amendment from the Senate crossbench calling for the removal of the ‘exceptional circumstances’ threshold to allow public hearings when such hearings would be clearly in the public’s best interest.”
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