Joint Standing Committee on the Corruption and Crime Commission — Tenth Report — “With Extraordinary Power... The Corruption and Crime Commission’s Execution of a Search Warrant on the Shire of Halls Creek”
Resumed from 21 March.
Hon NICK GOIRAN: I move —
That the report be noted.
I note that very hardworking Hon Alison Xamon is very interested in this report that I have just moved be noted. This report is the tenth report of the Joint Standing Committee on the Corruption and Crime Commission, not to be confused with the ninth report. I confess that I do not have a great amount of expertise about this report, but I am looking forward to hearing from the learned Hon Alison Xamon, who has spent quite a lot of time with this committee under the chairmanship of the member for Girrawheen, my good friend Margaret Quirk, MLA. They have done some excellent work. I note that Hon Jim Chown is away on urgent parliamentary business. He is the deputy chairman of the committee. At this stage, I will restrict my remarks to indicate that I would at the very least like to see the house note the report and I look forward to hearing what others might have to say about it.
Hon ALISON XAMON: I rise to make some comments about the tenth report of the Joint Standing Committee on the Corruption and Crime Commission, “With Extraordinary Power... The Corruption and Crime Commission’s Execution of a Search Warrant on the Shire of Halls Creek”. It pertains to the Corruption and Crime Commission’s execution of a search warrant on the Shire of Halls Creek. This report follows the CCC’s report into the corruption it uncovered in the Shire of Halls Creek. Arising from that report, concerns were raised by the Parliamentary Inspector of the Corruption and Crime Commission about the way the search warrants were issued. I want to make some comments about this report because it goes to the importance of Parliament’s oversight role over the CCC. We are very fortunate to have a parliamentary inspector who is independently appointed and has responsibility for investigating the CCC, which has extraordinary powers, to ensure that they are not being abused and that they are being exercised in accordance with the parameters specified in the legislation that governs the CCC’s activities. In turn, we are fortunate that the parliamentary inspector can both report to the committee that is appointed by this house and the other place to oversight the activities of the CCC, and directly to Parliament. Part of the process is that when the committee is of the view that Parliament’s attention should be brought to a matter, the committee can issue reports such as the one in front of members today.
I will briefly go through what happened in this incident. In September 2017, the CCC executed a search warrant on the residence of the then CEO of the Shire of Halls Creek. It was investigating alleged serious misconduct. Members will undoubtedly have already read the subsequent report, but I recommend that those who may have accidentally missed it, look at it, because it is still available. Concerns were raised about the way the CCC exercised those search warrants. The parliamentary inspector subsequently provided a report to the committee, which raised concerns. Concerns were raised that one officer in particular had allegedly not handled it as well as they should have—both the parliamentary inspector and the committee have chosen not to name the officer publicly—and the report discusses the circumstances surrounding the finding of misconduct. Particular circumstances and concerns arose. Shire employees wanted to be present at the search of the CEO’s residence, which belonged to the shire, and were prohibited from being there, and questions were raised about whether that was appropriate. There were also concerns about how the search warrant had been authorised.
I think it is important to note that the Corruption and Crime Commission has not agreed with the parliamentary inspector’s findings. The original concerns that were extensively raised by the parliamentary inspector are given in the various appendices, and, of course, we also have the response from the CCC. I do not think it is necessarily the role of Parliament in this instance to make a determination on whether the parliamentary inspector or the Corruption and Crime Commission was correct. What is very useful about this debate is that it is effectively a shot across the bow—a reminder, if you like—of the CCC that with those extraordinary powers come extraordinary responsibility. It is important that we remember that. I am concerned that when we discuss legislation in this place, particularly legislation pertaining to the CCC, there can be a tendency to create a sense that the CCC should be free to be able to do whatever it likes, and an idea that if a person has not done anything wrong, they have nothing to worry about. I disagree with that. I think that if a person is a free citizen who has not committed corruption, that person has every right to expect that they are not going to have their civil liberties impeded or intruded upon, and that at least the most basic processes are being followed.
It is exceptionally important that we remember those safeguards that have been created to ensure that the CCC does not overstep the mark any more than it currently is able to by dint of the powers that have been imbued in it through the act. It is also very important that people pay attention to the sorts of concerns that are being raised by the parliamentary inspector. I remain concerned when people take a bit of a lackadaisical approach to the powers of the CCC, because I do not think that we should. We need to remember that we are still entitled to expect basic procedural fairness and civil liberties within a democratic system. It is very, very important that we are mindful of the checks and balances that we have to put around those entities that we have imbued with extraordinary power.
I want to draw members’ attention to the report. I did not want it to be tabled and people ignore the fact that it is here. I would hope that when we are debating legislation in this place around the CCC, for example, at the very least, members will take the time to look at reports of this nature. As I say, I am not standing here to take a position on whether the Corruption and Crime Commission or the parliamentary inspector was right, but to look at the sorts of tensions that can arise around the use of extraordinary powers.
Those were the comments that I particularly wanted to make and to draw to the attention of the chamber. I think it is very important that we are mindful that independent oversight is critical. That extends also to the importance of this place, and making sure that we do not renege on our responsibility to engage in the oversight of the Corruption and Crime Commission.
Question put and passed.