Should ICAC be held in public or in secret

This is the question thrown up in the public arena after NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell was forced to resign for not declaring the recipient of a $ 3,000 bottle of Grange Hermitage.


Premier O’Farrell originally denied having received a $3000 bottle of wine from Australian Water Holdings boss Nick Di Girolamo. He was forced to resign however after it was revealed that he sent Mr Di Girolamo a card thanking him for the gift. In resigning he accepted the hand written note was his handwriting.

The proceedings leading up to his resignation were of course held in public. 

There have been calls to change the South Australian ICAC legislation to allow similar to happen here rather than be held in private. The question that this prompts is what if Barry O’Farrell had ultimately bee found innocent. Would he have been held innocent in the public eye or would the mud stick.

Our Attorney General, Deputy Premier John Rau has responded to the criticism be saying he sees no reason in what has happened in NSW to change his mind on the use of privacy. I haven’t seen anything to change my view that an investigation should be conducted in camera and a trial should be conducted in public,” Mr Rau said.

The operative point here is the investigation should be held in private. If sufficient evidence is found to take the matter to trial then it should become public.

Mr Rau said it appeared Mr O’Farrell had given false sworn testimony to the ICAC hearing and if such testimony was given to the South Australian body it could result in a charge of perjury. He said Mr O’Farrell might also have breached provisions dealing with the declaration of gifts.
“I’m not passing judgment on Mr O’Farrell from this distance,” Mr Rau said. “But there we have two criminal offences, perhaps, in respect to Mr O’Farrell.”
He said if false testimony was given to SA’s ICAC, the anti-corruption commissioner would be free to publicly release the information even under the state’s current provisions.
I think our Attorney General has this right. Every citizen, even if holding public office should be afforded the same rights and keeping the investigation private allows this. Making it open to the public surely means the person in question has less rights than an ordinary citizen.
An given the ease with which anyone can make an allegation I would want to know I was afforded these rights if a false allegation was made against me.
 





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