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SA's ICAC boss headhunted for the Northern Territory

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South Australia’s anti-corruption watchdog is being headhunted to lead and establish a Northern Territory ICAC, while still remaining employed as SA’s commissioner.

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Bruce Lander has conditionally accepted the part-time role of Northern Territory Anti-Corruption Commissioner, subject to the endorsement of SA Attorney-General John Rau, who is said to be “not averse” to the proposal.

That’s according to the final report of the Northern Territory’s Anti-Corruption, Integrity and Misconduct Commission Inquiry, tabled in the NT parliament late last month.

“Mr Lander has indicated that, subject to obtaining the consent and approval of the South Australian Government, he is willing to assist in the establishment of the new NT Anti-Corruption Commission by accepting appointment as the NT Commissioner on a part-time basis,” the report says.

“[SA Attorney-General] John Rau … has indicated that although the decision will rest with Cabinet, he is not averse to the broad proposal.

“The importance and advantage of appointing a person possessing Mr Lander’s qualifications, independence, experience and expertise should not be underestimated.”

The report, prepared by jurist Brian Martin QC, recommends that Lander be appointed to “assure both independence, and appearance of independence, from the influence of familial and personal connections that often arise in the Territory”.

Martin’s report says the NT Government would have to compensate the SA Government for Lander’s time, should it take up his recommendation, but would avoid having to pay him an annual salary or employ an NT commissioner full-time.

“… ideally a full-time Commissioner resident in Darwin would be appointed, [however] there is a real risk that within a relatively short time the workload would not keep a full-time Commissioner fully occupied,” the report says.

It recommends the Territory emulate the secretive South Australian ICAC model – as opposed to a more public model, such as that used in New South Wales.

In August, NT Attorney-General John Elferink penned a newspaper article, arguing that the Territory did not need an ICAC because failures in law enforcement that had occurred in other jurisdictions had not occurred in the Territory.

However, the NT Government bowed to public pressure later that month by committing to set up an anti-corruption body.

The Government would have to accept Martin’s recommendations for Lander to be appointed to the role.

An NT Government spokesperson told InDaily it was considering the recommendations of Martin’s report, and that it was unlikely any decision about the detail of a Northern Territory anti-corruption body would be made before the Territory’s general election next month.

InDaily asked Lander’s office for comment on whether he would be able to manage the workload of both roles effectively, but he is on leave and unable to comment.

A spokesperson for the SA ICAC said in a statement that: “Whilst I am aware that Commissioner Lander met with Commissioner Martin during the project’s research phase, I cannot respond with regards to the details of their conversations.”

Rau is currently on leave, but Acting SA Attorney-General Susan Close and the Law Society of South Australia have been contacted for comment.

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