Labor push to protect ICAC public hearings

ICAC chief Megan Latham opposes a move to a three-member commission. Photo: Daniel MunozA push to require the unanimous agreement of three commissioners of the NSW corruption watchdog before public hearings can be held is set to be opposed by Labor, amid fears it will lead to more inquiries conducted in secret.
Nanjing Night Net

On Tuesday, Fairfax Media revealed a draft report by the oversight committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption recommended a single commissioner be replaced with a three-member commission.

The report says any decision to hold public hearings during a corruption inquiry should require unanimous agreement of the commissioners.

The committee, chaired by Liberal MP Damien Tudehope, is considering a report on the watchdog’s powers by Inspector of the ICAC, David Levine, handed to Premier Mike Baird in May.

The committee’s draft report rejects a call by Mr Levine to scrap public hearings at the ICAC “to prevent the undeserved trashing of reputations”.

But it says introducing a three-member commission and requiring unanimous agreement before public hearings are held would “balance” Mr Levine’s concerns.

However, it is understood Labor members of the oversight committee will press in a meeting on Wednesday to allow public hearings if only two commissioners agree.

The government controls the 11-member committee, but Labor MPs led by shadow attorney-general Paul Lynch are expected to argue for the change in order to achieve a consensus final report.

At a committee hearing last month, ICAC commissioner Megan Latham spoke against a move to a three-member commission, which was proposed in a submission by the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Ms Latham warned it would would increase costs and leave “a couple of people sitting around twiddling their thumbs”.

Former ICAC commissioner David Ipp described it as “an unnecessarily expensive and top-heavy absurdity”.

The draft report proposes a chief commissioner be appointed for five years and two other commissioners on a part-time basis.

It recommends that all commissioners be appointed by the NSW governor on the recommendation of the government and that the oversight committee retain the power of veto.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.