Lawyer accuses NT ICAC of ‘gross incompetence’

Former NT Bar Association president John Lawrence told Sky News Australia he does not believe the public has “any faith or confidence” in the office’s effectiveness.

Sky News presenter Sharri Markson says the New South Wales ICAC has “destroyed too many careers”. Ms Markson’s comments come after the national anti-corruption commission was opened in Canberra, with Labor vowing the body would not be political.

“That office is incompetent, extremely incompetent, and I don’t think anyone in the public has any faith or confidence in its effectiveness,” former NT Bar President John Lawrence SC told Sky News.

Last week, the NT Independent revealed that CLP member and party operative Cormac MacCarthy had been hired by the Office of the Independent Anti-Corruption Commissioner.

An anti-corruption investigation by the Northern Territory’s integrity watchdog found that independent chairwoman Kezia Purick engaged in corrupt conduct by intervening in an attempt to create a political party. The ICAC Commission issued its decision yesterday which found the disgraced politician engaged in a “series of acts” that amounted to corrupt conduct because each was a “serious breach of public trust.” In a 67-page report, ICAC Commissioner Ken Fleming QC examined emails and text messages, including one sent in which Ms Purick instructed another politician, identified only as AB, to “deny, deny, deny” wrongdoing if asked about it. (First three pairs of new information, then put them on the back burner for people unfamiliar. You don’t need to tell the whole story right away.) Former Chief Minister Terry Mills planned to set up the North Australian Party in 2018 but was prevented from doing so after Ms Purick Executive Assistant Martine Smith contacted and urged a Queensland businessman who had already registered a party with the same name to object The Commission found that Ms. Purick was aware of the exchange, despite claiming that Ms. Martine acted without her knowledge. The matter has been referred to the NT Director of Public Prosecutions and there is still a possibility of criminal charges being filed. Image: News Corp Australia

Following criticism of the appointment, Commissioner Michael Riches wrote to Ms Fyles on Saturday recommending that the ICAC Act be amended to prevent the employment of people with recent political affiliations.

When asked about the matter, Ms Fyles said: “It is worrying and we are looking at legislation to ensure that someone who has recently had political connections should not be in that kind of position.”

Ms Fyles said that judges, for example, cannot have been members of a political party for 10 years prior to their appointment.

“I think that the independent bodies that are created must have and need the perception of independence,” he said.

Chief Minister Natasha Fyles conceded that the NT ICAC should not have appointed a member of the Country Liberal Party to an investigative role. Image: Amanda Parkinson

Mr. Lawrence has previously raised concerns about conflicts of interest within the ICAC office.

These included the appointment of Matthew Grant, the brother of Chief Justice Michael Grant, as deputy commissioner.

And the award of lucrative investigative contracts to former South Australian police officer David McGinlay, the boyfriend of then O/ICAC director of investigations Kate Kelly.

“This office has been plagued with prior conflicts of interest that they have simply ignored, and now conflict of interest almost doesn’t seem to exist, and it’s a very important principle because it ensures fairness, fairness and transparency,” Lawrence said. .

The NT Chief Minister and Cabinet Department is investigating an incident involving 2009 Australian of the Year Mick Dodson. NT Treaty Commissioner Professor Dodson has been charged with threatening to assault a woman and using sexually degrading language towards her at a football match in Darwin. The interaction occurred at the members’ bar at the TIO Stadium in Darwin, where the Aboriginal woman in question reported that Professor Dodson became angry and threatened to “turn her lights out”. A complaint was then made to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Selena Uibo, who immediately directed the chief executive of the Chief Minister’s and Cabinet Department to seek a formal response from the commissioner. In a statement, she told Sky News that “the issue was also referred to the ICAC, who also passed it on to the DCMC as an employment matter.” The former Australian of the Year has not denied the allegations, but says he does not remember the incident. A statement issued by his lawyer says: “Professor Dodson has no recollection of the incident he complains about and his doctors report that the dissociation is a symptom of his medical condition.” Professor Dodson has agreed to meet with the whistleblower and says he will continue in his role as Treaty Commissioner. Removing the commissioner from his post would require a two-thirds vote of the Northern Territory parliament, which would have to be approved by the administrator.

The government previously commissioned Greg Shanahan, former executive director of the Department of Attorney General and Justice, to conduct a review of the ICAC Act.

Ms Fyles did not commit to publishing Shanahan’s review, but said she would receive advice on whether parts of it could be made public.

Lawrence said the review should “absolutely” be published.

However, he questioned the appointment of Mr. Shanahan to conduct the review, since he had been involved in drafting the original ICAC Act.

“The fact that he was given the task of looking at the body that he eventually created is totally inappropriate. He has, wait, a conflict of interest,” Lawrence said.

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Raven Asher

Hey there, I'm Raven Asher, a writer and blogger currently studying at McMaster University. My passion lies in arts and culture, and I love exploring and sharing my thoughts on different aspects of this field through my writing. I've been fortunate enough to have my articles featured on several blogs and news websites, which has allowed me to connect with readers from all over the world. Apart from writing, I'm also an avid traveler, and I love experiencing different cultures and learning new things. Join me on my journey as I explore the world and share my insights on everything art and culture!

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