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Brereton: National Anti-Corruption Commission to be ‘fearless but fair’

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) officially opened for business earlier today (Monday, 3 July), with its inaugural commissioner, former NSW Court of Appeal judge Paul Brereton, aspiring to ensure that the integrity body is a respected arm of Australia’s democracy.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 03 July 2023 Big Law
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The NACC has commenced its operations and is the country’s first agency with broad jurisdiction to investigate serious or systemic corruption involving Commonwealth public officials.

As has already been widely reported today, the commission has already received 44 referrals.

Speaking at his first public address as inaugural commissioner, the Honourable Paul Brereton AM RFD SC — who was appointed as the body’s head in March by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus — reflected on the significance of the opening of the commission, as well as the anticipation of its looming investigations.


“The people of the Commonwealth are no longer prepared to tolerate practices which might once have been the subject of, if not acceptance, at least acquiescence,” commissioner Brereton said.

“They have clearly expressed a desire for an anti-corruption agency.”

“The commission is obviously aware of a number of matters which have been mentioned in the media and elsewhere as potential subjects for investigation,” he went on.

“We will assess all the matters of which we are aware, to decide whether they should be investigated.”

“It is through detection, investigation and reporting that corrupt conduct is exposed, and through the risk of such exposure that more corrupt conduct is deterred,” he noted.

There is also an important role for senior leaders to pay, commissioner Brereton continued, in modelling behaviour and promoting a safe environment for staff to speak up, and he also spoke to the need for the NACC to remain independent of government and impartial.

“By enhancing a culture of transparency and integrity, we will harden the Commonwealth public sector against corruption and support the APS-wide integrity reform agenda,” he submitted.

“My aspiration is that this commission will be a respected part of the machinery of our democracy.

“I want the commission to have the reputation of being fearless but fair, independent, and impartial. While the legislation gives us great powers, with that comes great responsibility.”

In farewelling commissioner Brereton from the state’s Court of Appeal, in June, Chief Justice Andrew Bell proclaimed the outgoing judge to be a “counsel of extraordinary tenacity”.

A-G Dreyfus said, late last week, that the NACC “will strengthen our democracy and public institutions”.

“On behalf of the Australian government, I thank the [Honourable] Paul Brereton AM RFD SC, who has agreed to serve as the inaugural commissioner, as well as the deputy commissioners Nicole Rose PSM and Dr Ben Gauntlett and acting deputy commissioner Jaala Hinchcliffe,” he said.

The government committed $33.2 million in 2022–23 to establish the commission, with a further $295.6 million over four years from 2023–24 for its ongoing operations and for oversight of the commission by the inspector.

This funding, the A-G’s Department detailed, will ensure the commission has the resources to properly consider referrals and allegations, conduct timely investigations and undertake corruption prevention and education activities.

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