4 November 2022

Executive search finds Damian Cantwell still best person for elections job

| Ian Bushnell
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Damian Cantwell

ACT Electoral Commissioner Damian Cantwell: back for the 2024 poll. Photo: Region.

After an executive search costing $38,500, the ACT Electoral Commission has stuck with the same man to lead it for a further five years.

Legislative Assembly Speaker Joy Burch has formally reappointed Damian Cantwell as ACT Electoral Commissioner after a recruitment process and the due parliamentary and committee consultation process as required under the Electoral Act.

Canberra headhunters Executive Intelligence Group was contracted to help run the open merit-based recruitment process, as Mr Cantwell’s term neared expiry at the end of this month.

Ms Burch, Deputy Electoral Commissioner Rohan Spence and Chair of the Electoral Commission David Kalisch were in charge of the recruitment, selection and appointment processes.

The position was advertised nationally and Executive Intelligence Group helped set up a three-member Appointment Advisory Panel appointed by the Speaker.

It prepared a report for the Speaker on behalf of the panel recommending suitable candidates and the preferred candidate for the position.

When the recruitment process became public, Mr Cantwell declined to say whether he would leave the role come November, but he did have the option of reapplying and being considered along with the other candidates.

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His term will run from 1 November 2022 to 31 October 2027, and include the next ACT Assembly election in two years’ time.

Mr Cantwell brings his extensive experience as a senior officer in the ADF and his past five years’ experience as the ACT Electoral Commissioner to the role, including successful delivery of the 2020 election under the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I look forward to working with the Electoral Commission and leading the dedicated Elections ACT in delivering the highest possible standard of trusted, transparent, secure and accessible electoral services for the ACT, notably the Legislative Assembly election in October 2024 and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body election in July 2024,” Mr Cantwell said.

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Mr Cantwell, a former army brigadier, oversaw an election like no other in 2020 due to the social restrictions imposed to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early voting was available and encouraged from 28 September to Friday, 16 October, the day before the official polling day and Elections ACT set up 15 Early Voting Centres (EVCs) across the ACT.

This allowed the voting to be spread across three weeks, reducing the potential for large gatherings and the risk of transmitting the virus, especially on election day.

It was a major logistical challenge to keep people and the centres COVID-safe throughout the election period.

Mr Cantwell served in the Australian Defence Force for 37 years, including in high-level Defence Force liaison roles in the United States and senior roles assisting the Government of Afghanistan in the conduct of the 2009 Afghanistan election.

He has a wealth of senior executive strategic leadership and change management experience, with a track record of delivering quality outcomes in often challenging and complex environments.

The ACT Electoral Commission is an independent statutory authority comprising a chairperson, the Electoral Commissioner and a part-time member with responsibility for the conduct of elections and referendums for the ACT Legislative Assembly, as well as the determination of ACT electoral boundaries.

The Electoral Commissioner is an Officer of the Legislative Assembly and also Chief Executive of Elections ACT.

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Pinky by name only!!

As past employee of the ABS I do have confidence in ex-chief statistician David Kalisch and his expertise as part of this selection process. I would however have questions if it was that ex-pinky statistician having a role. Probably one of the most hated men in the ABS to date!!

Highly questionable as to why the deputy electoral commissioner would – member of the panel charged with appointing the commissioner.

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