ALRC Inquiry ReportALRC tells government
how to do
Commissions
on the cheap

Australia looks likely to get a new form of major investigation – the Official Inquiry – as a second tier to the existing Royal Commission system, after the Australian Law Reform Commission tabled its report No 111, ‘Making Inquiries’. The ALRC has made other recommendations that would make the inquiry process more open, and oblige the government to respond in a timely manner to inquiry recommendations.

ALRC tells government how to do Commissions on the cheap

Official Inquiries look likely to be a new form of Royal Commission on the cheap to handle embarrassing disasters like the Dr Haneef case or the Australian Wheat Board bribery scandal.

The “second tier” public inquiry would allow the government to ‘park’ the problems less formally and with reduced costs by comparison with Royal Commissions but with similar rules, protections and reporting requirements.

An Australian Law Reform Commission report recommends the Royal Commissions Act 1902 (Cth) be amended and renamed the Inquiries Act to provide for two tiers of public inquiry: Royal Commissions (RCs) and Official Inquiries (OIs).

It is a totally lost opportunity: the ALRC should have recommended getting rid entirely of the word “Royal” from inquiries in Australia. Attorney-General Robert McClelland has the chance to do that when he presents draft legislation later this year.

Even ‘Major’ and ‘Minor’ inquiry would be better than retaining ‘Royal’ when there is an opportunity to de-couple our nation from an anachronistic link to another nation that we have removed from our national anthem.

National Commission and Official Inquiry would be more suitable.

The ALRC’s “Making Inquiries” report, No 111 and with 82 recommendations, was finally tabled in parliament last month, 13 months after it was commissioned.

The government asked the ALRC to devise a better inquiry system after  systemic problems arose during the Clarke Inquiry, which Commissioner Clarke highlighted in the ‘Report of the Inquiry into the Case of Dr Mohamed Haneef’.

Commissioner Les McCrimmon led the ALRC’s inquiry effort…and left the ALRC virtually immediately after producing the report to take up as Vice-Chancellor of Darwin University.

Commenting on the report, ALRC President, Professor Rosalind Croucher, said some recommendations aimed at openness and accountability, including publishing inquiry reports and monitoring what actions the government took in response.

“The Australian Government should be required to publish an update on the implementation of recommendations of an inquiry that it accepts. This should happen one year after the tabling of a final report of a Royal Commission or Official Inquiry, and periodically thereafter, to reflect any ongoing implementation activity,” she said.

The report also recommends:

  • prompt tabling of RC and OI reports in Parliament;
  • publishing a summary of the cost of each RC and OI; and
  • creating a way to protect national security information used in RCs or OIs.

It is now up to government to act by changing the law.

ALRC Report 111 at: http://www.alrc.gov.au/inquiries/current/royal-commissions/ALRC111/index.html

For the full list of recommendations, click here » …

Sabina Wynn – for the ALRC on (02) 8238 6366 or 0404 874 159 or via email at sabina.wynn@alrc.gov.au – prepared the media release on which this item is based.

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