Senate debates

Tuesday, 29 November 2022


National Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2022, National Anti-Corruption Commission (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2022; In Committee

6:36 pm

Photo of David ShoebridgeDavid Shoebridge (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

This amendment would provide for the oversight committee when it's considering just two critical issues, which are the appointment of the commissioner and the appointment of the inspector. It would provide that the oversight committee could only make that decision by a simple majority of members—not a super majority but a simple majority of members. It also provides that when determining that majority the provisions that provide for a casting vote of the chair do not apply. So, in other words, 50 per cent plus one of the members in attendance of the committee have to agree to the appointment of a commissioner or an inspector. Why is that important? It's important because it's hard to think of a more critical job for the oversight committee than determining who the commissioner and inspector of the NACC will be. On the current drafting, where the committee is six members of the government chosen from both houses and six non-government members—four of the opposition and two of the crossbench—chosen from each house, if there is an equality of votes then the government chair gets to determine the outcome. That effectively hands complete control to the government of the day in that critical decision about the appointment of a commissioner.

I acknowledge there's been a fair bit of public debate about that in the last 24 hours. There are propositions being put forward by the opposition to have a 75 per cent super majority. And, indeed, in the course of the inquiry, we heard time and again from the government and the opposition that you don't need to have any kind of super majority because these things are always done by consensus. We are told that it will always be unanimous, that everyone will always agree because that's how these committees work. If that's the case, if the expectation is that the proposed appointments will be of such quality it will always be done by consensus, where's the harm in acquiring just a simple majority?

We've heard from the government. They were very concerned that this would somehow provide a veto to the opposition. Well, far from providing a veto for an opposition, this gives the government of the day three potential avenues to get their commissioner appointed. They can get either of the crossbench members to agree, and, if either of them agree, there's the simple majority, or they can get the opposition to agree. That's three different avenues to get the government's appointment agreed. Why is that important? That's because we want to put a check and balance not just on the current government but we want to put a check and balance on a future government that may be much more noxious. We may actually want to appoint a commissioner to do over the opposition. We may want to appoint a commissioner to do harm. And of course there should be somebody other than the government of the day having oversight of the appointment of the commissioner so that it's not just a blank cheque.

So, the Greens firmly believe that this amendment gets the balance right. And I say 'the Greens', but I think a substantial chunk of the crossbench believes it, and I'd include the member for Indi, Dr Haines. And I know this is an amendment that was moved by Senator Pocock, and I appreciate and respect his position in this debate. This amendment gets the balance right. It's not a blank cheque for the government. It's not a veto for the opposition. But it is a check on the executive, and it is not just for this government but is about future-proofing the NACC.


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