An integrity review aimed at ending a ‘jobs for mates’ culture forced on the public service won’t go far enough, according to an independent MP who is putting forward her own private member’s bill to deal with the issue.
Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher has appointed former Australian Public Service commissioner Lynelle Briggs to head a review of public board appointments.
The minister described Morrison government appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Productivity Commission as a mockery of due process, saying such roles should be filled on merit and not because of who someone knows.
The Labor government has already announced the abolition of the AAT – to be replaced with a new federal administrative review body – over what it described as cronyism in the appointments process.
The Briggs review will specifically look at public sector board appointments and what minimum attributes appointees should possess.
A focus of the review will be ensuring appointment processes are more transparent and that they involve greater diversity in the composition of boards.
The review is expected to be completed by the middle of the year.
“I look forward to Ms Briggs’ robust recommendations on how the government can put merit and integrity back at the centre of the public sector appointment process,” Senator Gallagher told the Chifley Research Centre conference in Canberra.
“She brings a whole stack of expertise, obviously, to this job.”
Ms Briggs was previously the CEO of Medicare and has served as a commissioner on the aged care royal commission.
But independent Member for Mackellar Sophie Scamps has called on the government to undertake a much deeper review of the system.
“Ensuring that Commonwealth appointments are made on the basis of experience and expertise is only one step,” Dr Scamps told parliament.
“The process must also be transparent and independent so the Australian people can trust the decisions being made by the institutions that underpin our democracy.”
Dr Scamps said parliament should establish a public appointments commissioner and departmental independent selection panels.
She said a joint parliamentary committee to oversee the process should not have a government majority.
“In my proposed framework, the discretion of the minister is limited,” she said.
“The minister will choose the successful candidate, but only from a shortlist of candidates selected by the departmental ISP (independent selection panel).
“The minister will not be able to select someone who is not on that list or be able to add candidates to it.”
Dr Scamps’ so-called ‘ending jobs for mates bill’ is expected to be before the parliament in the next few weeks.
“I applaud the Albanese government for attempting to restore trust to the public board appointments process,” she said.
“But anything other than a fully independent, transparent and expertise-based appointment process will do nothing more than provide cover for the jobs-for-mates culture in politics to continue under a false veneer of respectability.”
Dr Scamps said she worked with the Centre for Public Integrity to draft her private member’s bill.
She said Coalition governments stacking Commonwealth positions with their friends had eroded the public’s trust in democratic institutions.