NACC head named
Paul Brereton has been appointed to lead the National Anti-Corruption Commission.
Australia's new national anti-corruption watchdog, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), is set to commence operations from the middle of this year, and former NSW Court of Appeal judge, Justice Paul Brereton, has been appointed as commissioner.
Justice Brereton led the inquiry into allegations of war crimes by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, and his appointment has been hailed as an indication of the government's commitment to transparency and accountability.
Justice Brereton will be joined by deputy commissioners Nicole Rose, former chief executive of financial watchdog AUSTRAC, and Ben Gauntlett, former disability discrimination commissioner at the Human Rights Commission.
Senior barrister Gail Furness SC will act as inspector, and the NACC will be run by chief executive Phillip Reed, former CEO of NSW's anti-corruption commission.
According to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, the appointments were made in accordance with the government's merit and transparency policy and with the approval of the parliament's joint committee responsible for overseeing the NACC.
He also cited Justice Brereton's experience running the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force’s inquiry into conduct in Afghanistan as a reason for his appointment, noting that it was an “extraordinarily difficult, long-running inquiry and investigation, with a great deal of difficulty in getting people to come forward, a great deal of difficulty in obtaining evidence”.
One of the most contentious issues surrounding the NACC is whether it will allow for public hearings.
The Coalition had previously criticised state models, such as the NSW ICAC, for holding open hearings, with former Prime Minister Scott Morrison referring to them as a “kangaroo court”.
However, the Attorney-General noted that the commissioner's discretion was clear and that he had not had a discussion with Justice Brereton about how he plans to exercise his discretion to hold a public hearing when appropriate.
Jaala Hinchcliffe, who leads the Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, which is being subsumed into the NACC, will also serve as an interim deputy commissioner until a third appointment is made.
Justice Brereton, a 65-year-old major general in the Army Reserves, previously called out the culture within Australia's special forces, labelling it a problematic “warrior culture”.
His landmark report, released more than two years ago, recommended the further investigation of 19 soldiers over the alleged murder of 39 prisoners and civilians.