Move to end 'national shame' of jobs for mates
A bill to end a culture of jobs for the boys, where "mates" of the government are rewarded with plum public appointments, has been put before parliament.
Independent Dr Sophie Scamps, who represents the Sydney seat of Mackellar, introduced her Ending Jobs for Mates legislation on Monday to prevent corruption from happening in the first instance, declaring the prevailing culture a "national shame".
"This bill would ensure that a candidate with the requisite expertise and knowledge gets the job, not the bloke the minister went to school with," she told parliament.
"The people of Australia want and deserve a political system they can trust.
"This bill aims to do just that by ending for good the cronyism and jobs for mates culture that has undermined our democracy for too long."
The legislation would create a public appointments commissioner and independent selection panels overseen by a parliamentary committee.
They would appoint the national anti-corruption commissioner and Administrative Appeals Tribunal members.
After the recruitment process, the relevant minister would be provided with a shortlist of three candidates to ensure the process is free from bias.
Dr Scamps said she had briefed Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on her legislation, with the government then announcing five days later its review of board appointments.
She said one in 10 appointments were "party-friendly" with direct political connections, with that number jumping to more than 20 per cent or more for a "really plum job".
The Albanese government announced last December it was abolishing the Tribunal, and replacing it with a new body, as its reputation had been "irreversibly damaged" by dozens of political appointments under the former Morrison government.
Dr Scamps urged the government to support her legislation in a bid to strengthen integrity and restore public faith in the political process.
Geoffrey Watson SC, from the Centre for Public Integrity, said a "decent society" wouldn't need laws to protect against bad appointments.
He said politically-linked appointments meant integrity was undermined, independence lost, and the best person for the job missed out.
"If you see a mate being appointed to such a position, then immediately you start asking yourself the question: 'Who are the politicians governing for - for us or for their own benefit?'" Mr Watson said.
Backing the move, Victorian independent MP Helen Haines said current political appointments were "essentially a political loyalty award scheme" rather than a proper process.
"It's time to stop this cronyism, this patronage for pals," she said.
"This bill brings a clear fix which would align us with international best practice.
"No more captain's picks, let's restore fairness, due process, and trust with quality non-political public appointments."
Confirming he had met with Dr Scamps on the bill, Mr Dreyfus told parliament the government was committed to "merit-based, transparent appointment processes".
"You will see those merit-based, transparent appointment processes in all respects in the appointments of this government," Mr Dreyfus said.