As the NACC Bill returns to Parliament today, the country’s leading integrity organisations and experts are making a united call for the elimination of the ‘exceptional circumstances’ threshold for public hearings.
The Centre for Public Integrity, Transparency International Australia, the Human Rights Law Centre, the Accountability Roundtable, the Ethics Centre, the Governance Institute and the Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law have today joined together with Australia’s pre-eminent integrity advocates to call for the removal of the ‘exceptional circumstances’ test contained at clause 73 of the NACC Bill.
The Hon Anthony Whealy KC, Chair of the Centre for Public Integrity, said that “The proposed exceptional circumstances test is a serious restriction on the Commission’s ability to hold public hearings – even where it would be in the public interest to do so. It is also unnecessary, insofar as the Commissioner is already required to consider whether a public hearing would cause unfair prejudice to a person’s reputation, privacy and safety and be satisfied that holding a hearing in public would be in the public interest”.
He described the proposed exceptional circumstances test as “excessive, redundant and a serious retraction by Labor on the model it has promised for over two years, which was endorsed by stakeholders on the basis of it having a strong public hearings power.”
Clancy Moore, CEO of Transparency International Australia, said that “The proposed exceptional circumstances test sets a very high bar for public hearings and means important information into corruption will be kept hidden from the public. We encourage the government to work with the senate to legislate a new, best practice public interest test for public hearings based on transparency and integrity.”
Professor Colleen Lewis, Honorary Professor at the ANU’s Australian Studies Institute, said “the exceptional circumstances requirement is a barrier to effective accountability and transparency in public life”.
The Hon Stephen Charles AO KC, Board member of both the Centre for Public Integrity and the Accountability Roundtable, said “Without this amendment, the NACC will simply be unable to do its job properly”.
For comment please email firstname.lastname@example.org