The State Government will give the Corruption and Crime Commission wider organised crime powers following recommendations made by a senior barrister charged with reviewing the operation and effectiveness of Western Australia’s CCC Act.
Attorney General Jim McGinty said the expanded organised crime function would enable the CCC, by agreement with the Police Commissioner, to use its extraordinary powers to tackle serious organised crime in Western Australia.
Mr McGinty said the review by Gail Archer SC would enable the Government to deal with many complex issues raised about the operation of the CCC.
“I thank Ms Archer for the diligent and consultative report she has presented,” he said.
“The State Government has considered her 58 recommendations and supports all but four of them.”
Other key recommendations include:
· The CCC should be given the power to report opinions on people who do not work in Government.
· The CCC’s powers to deal with contempt should be simplified by:
a. removing the requirement that a question must be judged as relevant (in hindsight), for failure to answer it to be regarded as contempt.
b. facilitating the procedure by which allegations of contempt can be dealt with by the Supreme Court.
· Appointing a Public Interest Monitor to provide input on applications for surveillance device warrants.
· Clarifying the ability of the Director General to discuss CCC matters with the relevant Minister.
· In relation to Parliament and privilege:
- Make references from Parliament to the CCC discretionary. Currently, if the Privileges Committee decides to hold an inquiry into an individual or individuals’ behaviour, reference of non-serious misconduct to the CCC is mandatory. In essence, the referral mechanism allows the CCC, for the purpose of the investigation only, to go behind parliamentary privilege. It does not allow the CCC, or any other body, to go behind parliamentary privilege for the purposes of a prosecution.
- Make the CCC referral mechanism available for all misconduct (not just non-serious misduct). That is, extending the circumstances in which Parliament can ask the CCC to investigatcone without being restricted by privilege.
- Establish a comprehensive parliamentary code of conduct - breach of which would constitute misconduct for CCC purposes.
On the issue or public and private hearings, Ms Archer recommended that the CCC should continue to have the power to hold some hearings in public, pointing out that its predecessor (the Anti-Corruption Commission) was substantially hampered because it did not have this power.
“Further, unlike in some other jurisdictions, in WA the legislative starting point is that hearings will be closed,” Ms Archer said.
“Accordingly, there is no justification to amend the Act to further restrict the power of the CCC. Indeed, an argument could be made for amending the Act to widen the discretion.
“It is obvious that the exercise of the discretion will come under scrutiny from time to time and will be the subject of complaint. However, it is equally obvious that the CCC is well aware of the relevant criteria it must take into account before exercising that discretion.”
Since its establishment, 22 per cent of CCC hearings have been held in public.
The four recommendations not accepted by the Government are:
· Recommendation 10. Extending the term of appointment for CCC staff from five to eight years.
· Recommendation 11. A change of policy to allow staff finishing their work with the CCC to return to the public sector at the level they reached while working for the CCC.
· Recommendation 27. The CCC be given powers equivalent to the police under the Criminal Property Confiscation Act. The Government considers this unnecessary as the CCC can work collaboratively with the police where confiscations are appropriate.
· Recommendation 34. Confirm that the CCC can form opinions on conduct less than misconduct. The Government considers that the CCC’s powers in this area were always intended to be limited to outlining opinions of misconduct and corruption. Anything less can be unnecessarily damaging to individuals.
The Government has resolved to seek advice from the Joint Standing Committee on the Corruption and Crime Commission Act in two main areas:
· As announced by the Premier last week, the mechanism, if any, to resolve any impasse between the CCC and the Parliamentary Inspector; and
· The issue of parliamentary privilege, a code of conduct for MPs, and Ms Archer’s recommendation on how to handle misconduct and corruption by MPs
A working group, consisting of Government agencies will be formed to advise the government on detailed implementation of the recommendations in relation to the organised crime function.
Attorney General's office - 9422 3000