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Discussion paper
Report cover

The importance of public hearings: the case against the “exceptional circumstances” test

Corruption Open government Transparency Political corruption Public interest Commissions of inquiry Australia

The Commonwealth’s National Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2022 promises to legislate a federal integrity body with the broad investigative powers needed to fill the fundamental institutional gap in Australia’s national integrity system. However, a key point of contention among integrity experts is the Bill’s legislative test for holding public hearings.

This paper argues that the exceptional circumstances test in the Commonwealth’s National Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2022 is unhelpful, vague, and counterproductive. The test will impede the ability of the National Anti-Corruption Commission to uncover corruption and misconduct. The test will encourage litigation that stalls inquiries. Instead of guarding against administrative impropriety, the test will obscure the public’s ability to see for themselves that justice is being done.

There are two parts to this paper. Part One identifies the benefits of public hearings. Part Two summarises the problems with the exceptional circumstances test.

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