‘Respected and highly qualified’ senior judge takes on ‘historic’ role

A notable judge with a decorated resume has been appointed in the historic role as Australia’s first National Anti-Corruption Commissioner.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announced on Wednesday that the “most respected and highly qualified” Justice Paul Brereton will lead the country’s first independent National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) expected to be operational by mid-2023.

“Justice Brereton has a wealth of experience leading complex and sensitive investigations including as Assistant Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force when he delivered the Afghanistan inquiry report,” Attorney-General Dreyfus said in Canberra.

The 2020 inquiry report exposed Australian soldiers’ alleged war crimes in Afghanistan and now serves as a judge on New South Wales’ Court of Appeal.

The 65-year-old former army major general will take on his new role on a five-year term.

Attorney-General Dreyfus has also proposed Chief Executive of AUSTRAC Nicole Rose and Disability Discrimination Commissioner of the Australian Human Rights Commission Dr Ben Gauntlett for the two positions as Deputy Commissioner on a five-year term.

Integrity Commissioner for Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity Jaala Hinchcliffe has been appointed Acting Deputy Commissioner to serve until a third deputy is appointed.

Chief Executive of NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Phillip Reed has been proposed as the NACC’s Chief Executive on a five-year term, and ICAC inspector Gail Furness to work in the same role in the federal counterpart on a part-time seven-year term.

“I’m proud to say that these candidates were selected through a merit-based selection process and I know these are the people with the experience and capacity to guide the National Anti-Corruption Commission through its first months and years of operation and set it up for future success,” Attorney-General Dreyfus said of the appointments.

The candidates will need to be approved by Governor-General David Hurley before they take on their roles on the commencement of the commission’s legislation later this year.

“The legislation we passed through the parliament, which was supported across the parliament last year, is the best possible model,” Attorney-General Dreyfus said.

The commission delivers on Labor’s pre-election promise, which came in the wake of the former Liberal government’s failure to establish a corruption watchdog despite overwhelming support.

“The proposed appointments show the government is delivering on its commitment to the Australian people to return integrity, honesty and accountability to government by establishing a powerful, transparent and independent National Anti-Corruption Commission in its first term,” Attorney-General Dreyfus said.

“Today’s announcement is a significant milestone for the commission’s historic establishment.”

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