Every year federal and state governments make hundreds of appointments to regulatory and economic agencies, courts and tribunals, and cultural institutions. A significant and growing percentage of appointees have political connections to the government that appointed them.

Across all federal government appointees, 7 per cent have a direct political connection. This figure rises to 21 per cent among those positions that are well paid, prestigious, and/or powerful. For the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), an important body that makes rulings on government decisions, the figure is 22 per cent after a significant rise in recent appointments with political connections.

To improve the health of our democracy, federal and state governments should:

  • Advertise all public board, tribunal, and statutory appointments, along with the selection criteria for each position.
  • Establish an independent panel, including a new Public Appointments Commissioner, to assess applicants against the selection criteria and provide a shortlist of suitable candidates to the minister.
  • Limit ministerial discretion to choosing from the shortlist, with annual reporting to parliament on compliance.
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Grattan Institute Report No. 2022-09