28 September 2022

Search on for next ACT Electoral Commissioner

| Ian Bushnell
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Damian Cantwell

Electoral Commissioner Damian Cantwell: Will he stay on? Photo: Region.

Will the ACT have a new Electoral Commissioner to oversee the 2024 Legislative Assembly elections?

Damian Cantwell’s five-year term expires at the end of October but he is keeping mum on whether he will reapply for the job.

Meanwhile, the ACT Electoral Commission has hired a recruitment firm to find suitable candidates for the role and help manage the selection process.

Canberra headhunters Executive Intelligence Group will assist the Assembly Speaker and office, Deputy Electoral Commissioner Rohan Spence and Chair of the Electoral Commission David Kalisch to run the recruitment, selection and appointment processes.

The position will be advertised nationally and Executive Intelligence Group will help set up a three-member Appointment Advisory Panel to be appointed by the Speaker.

It will prepare a report for the Speaker by 14 October on behalf of the panel recommending suitable candidates and the preferred candidate for the position.

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Mr Cantwell declined to say whether he would be departing the role come November, but he does have the option of reapplying and being considered along with the other candidates.

With just over two years to go until the ACT goes back to the polls, confirming the top job at the Commission will be a priority.

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 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 had 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.

In retrospect, he was the perfect selection for the role, given how the pandemic was to change traditional voting practices.

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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 Chief Executive of Elections ACT.

Executive Intelligence Group is being paid $38,500 for their work.

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