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State Scene - Crime-buster move flawed

NOW the Gallop Government has moved to replace the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) with a similar bureaucracy, the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC), are we to assume all will be kosher on WA’s crime fighting front?

That’s what creation of the ACC – initially Labor’s Official Corruption Commission – promised.

State Scene doesn’t need convincing that the ACC was largely ineffectual having been privy to some of its correspondence about a case that, on the face of it, called for a prosecution that never eventuated.

Liberal lawyer Terry O’Connor headed the ACC and, guess what, Attorney-General Jim McGinty’s CCC legislation specifically states a lawyer must head his CCC.

Experienced and otherwise potentially skillful crime fighters without law degrees are therefore disqualified from the CCC’s top job because of Mr McGinty’s elitist proclivity of favouring those with a law degree like him.

Why?

“The CCC will have one Commissioner, with provision for an acting Commissioner, a Parliamentary Inspector and continued monitoring by a Parliamentary Committee,” Mr McGinty says.

“To ensure the community and Parliament will have confidence in the Commissioner, the appointment of the Commissioner can only be made after the Premier has consulted the Parliamentary leader of each party in the Parliament.”

So, to make matters worse the McGinty-created lawyer-Commissioner is chosen by the Premier, not Parliament.

Here’s the oldest bill-drafting trick in the book being employed.

And Mr McGinty claims it’s being done so the community and Parliament have confidence in the Commissioner.

All any premier needs do at most is convene a three-member selection panel, one of whom will undoubtedly be the head of the Premier’s Department and another an ally of a premier or the ruling party to ensure the person a premier and/or party wants is chosen.

After the earmarked person is “recommended” by that panel a premier tells the leaders of all other parties and proceeds with the wanted appointee, irrespective of their views.

That, as Mr McGinty knows, is the standard modus operandi whenever bills require premiers to “consult the parliamentary leaders of each party in parliament”.

These words mean nothing.

They simply disguise the fact that the person who’ll get this crucial job does so because a particular tiny party elite wants them.

It’s a case of getting the lawyer the government wants; shades of Henry Ford’s, your car can be any colour you like – in this case – as long as it’s pink.

Not good enough Mr McGinty.

Take back your flawed Triple-C bill and redraft it so the Commissioner doesn’t need to be a lawyer and is appointed by an all-party Legislative Council committee.

Such a committee, if it wants, could convene a specialist selection panel, which would answer to it, not a premier. After the committee has selected the Commissioner the Legislative Council would confirm the appointment by majority vote.

Then, and only then, will the community and MPs have confidence in the person named to be WA’s top crime-buster, one of whose major roles is to keep an eye on the Government who picks the Commissioner.

Anything less has undesirable party political overtones.

State Scene certainly doesn’t expect Liberal leader Colin Barnett to back this suggestion.

He, after all, may one day be premier so would inherit the power to select a Triple-C Commissioner.

In other words premiers and opposition leaders (alternative premiers) have a vested interest in keeping things the cosy way Mr McGinty devised them; tightly controlled by the party in power through a cabinet clique.

As for the remainder of Mr McGinty’s CCC bill it’s a mixed bag of good, bad, inevitable and inventive.

He’s foreshadowed creation of a joint Parliamentary Committee monitoring the CCC. Only time will tell if this will be effective or simply cursory over-sight.

There would be no need for such a committee if a Legislative Council judicial and administrative appointments standing committee existed to vet all judicial and senior public service appointees who would then be con-firmed, or rejected, by that chamber.

That’s the proper, tried and elsewhere tested, and sensible, approach.

Mr McGinty said: “The CCC will be able to investigate WA Judges, Ministers, MPs, police officers and other public officers.”

But will MPs from non-government parties – those without a say in the appointment of Mr McGinty’s lawyer-Commissioner – accept such a person having such draconian powers over them? State Scene suspects the bill could strike serious problems here.

Will they accept such powers over themselves without a real, as opposed to a Clayton’s, say on who’s Commissioner?

Time will tell if they’ll accept Commissioners, rather than voters and their party machines, overseeing them.

Otherwise, much of the McGinty CCC resembles the ACC – meaning it’s in danger of being the ACC under another name, but with more money, a bigger staff, and more to do.

Let’s wait and see if Mr McGinty’s foray into crime busting pans out more successfully than non-Labor’s did.

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