Image for Just how removed is the Integrity Commission from government influence ... ?

First published December 7

Concerned about the numerous stories on TT surrounding mismanagement, maladministration, misconduct and many other negative accounts of poor government and poor conduct by public servants in Tasmania, I went browsing over the internet …

I discovered a newly-published Federal Senate Select Committee report that looked into a “National Integrity Commission” (September 2017). 

In it, the committee examines arguments for and against the need for a National Integrity Commission, and in doing so also looks at existing integrity bodies in the states and territories of Australia:

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/National_Integrity_Commission/IntegrityCommissionSen/Report

Below are the most informative extracts from the Tasmanian section in regard to the appointment process to its Integrity Commission. I have taken the liberty of highlighting important points in bold which I think are very telling.

Of note is the comment about Tasmania’s commission in relation to all others in Australia.  Also of particular note, is the process of appointments i.e. who appoints the people to serve on the commission; and who else can have a say or even power of veto about the make-up of the commission.

“Commissioner—appointment and tenure

“3.124 The governance structure of the Tasmanian Integrity Commission differs from that of other state integrity commissions in that the Integrity Commission Act 2009 (Tas) (IC Act (Tas)) establishes a board, a chief commissioner and a chief executive officer.”

“3.125 The chief commissioner is the chairperson of the board. Board members are appointed by the governor on the advice of the minister, after consultation with the Joint Standing Committee on Integrity.

The IC Act (Tas) does not appear to require that the committee approve of board appointments, merely that it be consulted.”

“3.126 The chief commissioner is also appointed by the governor on the advice of the minister after consultation with the Joint Standing Committee on Integrity. Again, there appears to be no requirement that the committee agree to the appointment.”

This looks to me that the Tasmanian government via its minister has the sole power to appoint who they want on the Integrity Commission – the so-called watchdog for public service and public authority conduct.

In my opinion, the power of appointments is not at arm’s length from government, and it seems to embed the potential for conflicts of interest, doesn’t it? Or am I just being paranoid?

Mercury: Tasmanian Integrity Commission warns on public servant exits TASMANIA’S Integrity Commission has recommended changes to allow disciplinary findings against public servants who have quit their post. A commission report has found changes should be made to the State Services Act to prevent investigations ceasing once an employee subject to allegations of misconduct leaves. The recommendation is one of three made by the Commission following an investigation into the management of misconduct in the state’s public service. The report also recommends a written record of proceedings and action taken be kept for seven years …

ABC: Integrity watchdog calls for significant changes to handling of misconduct by Tasmania’s public service

Examiner: Tasmanian Integrity Commission delivers report on state service misconduct

The Integrity Commission: Investigation report recommends legislative changes for misconduct accountability

*Lyndall Rowley is simply a concerned citizen, environmentalist and voter who thinks a healthy democracy needs to be actively guarded and maintained by its citizens.  Ex-PM Fraser’s wife Tammy reputedly once called us “the dumb electorate”.  I wouldn’t characterise us that way.  But she’s kind of right in that many voters aren’t interested in politics and only reluctantly vote, or are swinging voters that can be swayed at the last minute by one issue (or the leader’s personality) at the time.  But politics affects all of our lives, whether we like it or realise it or not.  And when it comes to integrity and ethical conduct of our governments and the public sector, I want to be confident that we have systems in place that are above politics and clearly separate to the partisan politics of the day.

• David Obendorf in Comments: … In the case of Pandora’s box, unbridled curiosity when acted upon opened up and released consequences. As the myth tells it, when the box was open: Pandora could still hear a voice calling to her from the box, pleading with her to be let out. Her husband Epimetheus agreed that nothing inside the box could be worse than the horrors that had already been released, so they opened the lid once more. All that remained in the box was Hope. For me, the lesson from Pandora’s box is – be careful what I release because sometimes all that remains is Hope …

• Bob in Comments: Hodgman’s Chief of Staff Stansfield comes from the Abetz office. It shows and says it all really! ‘I didn’t say that’ and ‘not available for comment’ appears to be the Liberal Party mantra these days. Roll on March!