The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (16:48): I rise to support this bill and commend the government for taking steps to fulfil their election promise. This bill will enable the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) to hold hearings in public if they believe it is in the public interest to do so. Public hearings can only relate to issues of misconduct and maladministration, not corruption matters.
The commissioner, Bruce Lander, has previously called for the power to hold public hearings. The previous government opposed this, and a bill introduced by the Hon. Dennis Hood last year was unsuccessful. I have explored this issue before, and had previously been advised by parliamentary counsel that it would have been very difficult to provide those powers in a private members' amendment bill. The Hon. Dennis Hood should be commended for persisting with the issue to bring a bill to the parliament, just as the current government should be commended for bringing it to this parliament now.
It is extraordinary that there are circumstances where senior public servants make recommendations to the government but are completely ignored. It is no wonder that many public servants no longer give frank and fearless advice—they fear that their contracts will not be extended if they speak up. These people were appointed for their experience and expertise, and any suggestions should at least be given the courtesy of being considered rather than dismissed outright.
The ICAC has investigated several high-profile matters in the past few years, most notably the matter regarding abuse at Oakden and the sale of government-owned land at Gilman. There was incredible public interest in these matters and, should the commissioner think it is appropriate, hearings on issues such as these should be held in public.
Public hearings are permitted by other corruption investigation bodies around the country, and South Australia's ICAC Act has often been touted as being the most secretive in the nation. This bill will be an important step towards transparency for the people of South Australia. Again, I support the bill and commend the government for making these amendments to the act.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. D.G.E. Hood.