Independent MP Dr. Sophie Scamps has introduced a bill to Parliament to end a political culture of government-funded ‘jobs for mates’. Dr. Scamps’ proposal would reduce the Government’s role in appointment processes and increase transparency. It comes as the Government recently announced a review into how to improve appointment processes.
Governments are responsible for making thousands of appointments, many of them paid or prestigious. This includes ambassadors, judges, tribunal members, agency heads (like the Human Rights Commission or the Electoral Commission) and the boards of national institutions (like the ABC or the War Memorial). The appointment processes vary, but the Government of the day often has a prominent role in the process.
Transparency advocates have criticised governments from both sides of politics for politicising these appointments. This politicisation can include the choice of former politicians or political associates – for example, the Grattan Institute found nearly one in 10 federal appointments had political connections. It could also include the choice of people who align with the Government’s preferences – for example, Dr. Scamps notes the Morrison Government’s appointment of a former fossil fuel executive as chair of the Climate Change Authority.
Dr. Scamps’ bill would put recruitment processes for all major appointments in the hands of a Public Appointments Commissioner and Independent Selection Panels. These authorities would recommend a shortlist which the Minister in charge of the appointment must select from. The process would be monitored by a committee of politicians from across the political spectrum. Even tighter requirements would be in place for high profile appointments such as the new Anti Corruption Commissioner or the Human Rights Commissioner.
The Government recently announced its own review into the “jobs for mates culture” led by former public servant Lynelle Briggs. Katy Gallagher, Minister for the Public Service, said the review would consider how to improve integrity, transparency and merit-based appointment processes. A Government spokesperson told TDA the Government welcomes the debate and will consider changes when the review concludes in mid-2023. An Opposition spokesperson declined to offer a comment on Dr. Scamps’ bill.