The New South Wales government has moved to limit the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s public inquiries by requiring a majority vote of a new three-commissioner triumvirate.
Current commissioner Megan Latham’s position will be spilled if the legislation passes, and she will be invited to apply for one of the three new positions.
The changes announced today by Premier Mike Baird follow the recommendations of a parliamentary committee on ICAC published in October. In a statement, Baird said the changes were implementing those recommendations.
“They are entirely consistent with last year’s Independent Panel report into the ICAC, and will deliver a stronger and fairer anti-corruption watchdog,” Baird said.
The Labor opposition doesn’t see spilling Latham’s position as consistent with those recommendations. Shadow attorney-general Paul Lynch has objected to that provision, but not yet confirmed if Labor will attempt to block the bill.
The key reforms in the legislation, according to the government, are:
- ICAC will be reconstituted as a three-member Commission comprising a Chief Commissioner and two other Commissioners;
- The use of the ICAC’s extraordinary power to conduct public inquiries will be required to be authorised by the Chief Commissioner and at least one other Commissioner;
- A CEO will be appointed to manage the ICAC’s day-to-day operations;
- The three-member Commission will publish guidelines relating to public inquiries that ICAC staff, and Counsel Assisting the ICAC, must follow;
- The ICAC and the ICAC Inspector will be required to give affected persons a reasonable opportunity to respond before including an adverse finding or opinion about the person in a report – and, where the person elects to have it included, include a summary of their response in the report; and
- The ICAC will be able to, where requested, gather evidence that may be admissible in a criminal prosecution after the completion of its investigations.