Kicking at the cornerstone of democracy The State of Press Freedom in Australia 2012
The ICAC: • Must exercise its functions with as little formality and technicality as possible, and hearings shall be conducted with as little emphasis on an adversarial approach as is possible • Is not bound by the rules of evidence • May inform itself on any matter in such a manner as it considers appropriate.
Western Australia: Corruption and Crime Commission The CCC hearings are to be private unless otherwise ordered. The CCC Act provides the hearing may be public if it is in the public interest, having weighed the benefits of public exposure and public awareness against the potential for prejudice or privacy infringements. The rights and obligations at CCC hearings include: • The right to legal representation • A person must not refuse to produce a document or thing • A person must not refuse to answer questions. The Commission: • Is not bound by the rules of evidence • Can inform itself on any matter in such manner as it thinks fit.48
Tasmania: Integrity Commission Hearings of the Integrity Commission can be held in private or public. A person required or directed to give evidence or answer questions as part of an investigation may be represented by a legal practitioner or other agent.
Other states Victoria Victoria’s new Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) has been the subject of much controversy after it was announced that an expert report advising the Coalition government on the body’s most controversial aspects would not be made public. According to the Current Issues Brief released by the Victorian Parliamentary Library Research Service in November 2011, the IBAC will have similar powers to those vested in other states’ anti-corruption bodies.49 The Bill itself states: “The IBAC has power to do all things that are necessary or convenient to be done for or in connection with, or as incidental to, the achievement of the objects of this Act and the performance of its duties and functions.”50 It was reported in March 2012 that the IBAC will be up and running by July 2012 and will have the power to use surveillance devices and telephone bugging equipment to observe, listen to, track and monitor suspects.51
South Australia The SA government has announced it will establish an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), similar to those operating in other states. The new body would have a budget of $32 million over five years and would answer only to state parliament in the form of an annual report. It will have its own team of investigators and will hold most of its hearings in private.52 While acknowledging that state anti-corruption commissions are necessary to maintain probity and transparency in the various police forces and public service, the Alliance is concerned at the sweeping coercive powers claimed by such bodies. The power to enter premises, seize computers, documents and any other “thing”, the ability to summon witnesses, deny them legal representation and the right to silence and require them to answer questions and hand over any “thing” (which – in the case of journalists – is likely to include the identity of their confidential sources) puts journalists at odd with their Code of Ethics. Journalists appearing before anti-corruption commissions must be protected by shield laws in order to sustain confidentiality of sources.
Published on May 3, 2012