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Wednesday, 16 March 2005
Page: 39

Senator COONAN (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (11:58 AM) —Two amendments are being read together. One amends the ACMA Bill to require the minister to gazette a code of practice for selecting and appointing members of the ACMA. I will deal with that first. While the government agrees that the appointment of members to ACMA should be merit based—of course it should—a gazetted code is certainly not necessary to ensure this outcome. The government will be appointing the chair and the members based on their experience, expertise and qualifications and will be seeking to ensure that there is an appropriate mix of skills, given the areas the ACMA will regulate.

The government’s first step in this appointment process was the selection of an executive search agency to prepare a short list of candidates for the position of chair. To assist the executive search agency in undertaking this task, the government has developed a set of selection criteria. As part of this process the position of chair has also been advertised in major Australian newspapers. The government will use expressions of interest from these advertisements to inform its decisions about the appointment of other members of the ACMA. I am very confident that this process will enable recruitment from the widest possible talent pool. It is the Governor-General who will ultimately be appointing the ACMA members and it is a decision for the government of the day who will be recommended for appointment.

Once again, a bit of attention to drafting is needed if that amendment is to be pressed. In fact, the minister does not publish in the Gazette. He or she, whoever the minister is, causes to be published. With respect to amendment (5), which is to amend the bill to require the Governor-General to take into account the merit process, the Governor-General, as you would be aware, acts on advice from his ministers and is not in a position to consider the proposed merit selection procedure. It is therefore not appropriate that legislation impose such a requirement on the Governor-General.