Legislative Council: Tuesday, November 15, 2022


Independent Commission Against Corruption

The Hon. F. PANGALLO (14:56): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Attorney-General a question about ICAC.

Leave granted.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: With your indulgence, Mr President, and that of the chamber, I seek your patience, given the complexities and the gravity of the matter, to put this issue into context.

Last week, I called on the state government to support my calls for a royal commission into the operations of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) after deeply disturbing revelations of its flawed investigative practices were exposed over its pursuit of former senior government bureaucrat John Hanlon. I also called for ICAC commissioner Ann Vanstone KC to either resign or be sacked over her role in the matter along with the director of investigations, Andrew Baker, who was in charge of the witch-hunt.

My call follows the announcement last week by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Martin Hinton KC, that he had dropped charges against Mr Hanlon, a formal Renewal SA CEO, after a four-year wild goose chase over alleged corruption. His decision followed a series of bombshell revelations disclosed in the District Court, including that ICAC hid evidence—phone data—for three years which supported Mr Hanlon's version of events but did not disclose it to his legal team or DPP prosecutors until last week; that ICAC investigators knew they had breached international law by travelling to Germany to interview witnesses without obtaining a mutual assistance agreement—

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Point of order: with respect, these matters that are being raised in a brief summary are actually all matters on the public record and don't need to be reagitated in the advance of asking a question.

The PRESIDENT: No, I am sorry, that is not a point of order. Many issues are regurgitated from the public arena that we listen to in this place. I know that you are getting towards your conclusion, the Hon. Mr Pangallo.

The Hon. T.A. Franks interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Pangallo, continue.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: Thank you, Mr President. I mean, it is not just—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The sooner the Hon. Mr Pangallo concludes the sooner we can get on with it.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: —members that actually hear this, it is also people that take an interest in it outside. That is why we are streaming.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Pangallo, continue.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: I will continue that again, thank you, Mr President.

The Hon. I.K. Hunter: It's the brief explanation rule, Frank.


The Hon. F. PANGALLO: ICAC investigators knew they breached international law by travelling to Germany to interview witnesses without obtaining a mutual assistance agreement (MAR) made through the International Crime Cooperation Central Authority of the federal Attorney-General's Department between Germany and Australia—an issue Germany regards as a breach of its sovereignty. ICAC investigators admitted they had known for several years the evidence they obtained in Germany from the witnesses was inadmissible, yet failed to disclose the facts.

It gets worse. Publishing his findings today on his reasons for refusing an application by prosecutors to adjourn Mr Hanlon's trial, District Court judge the Hon. Timothy Heffernan was scathing of ICAC. He said, and I quote:

The failure of ICAC to have obtained permission by way of a MAR to conduct their inquiries in Germany falls well short of what should be expected from an investigative agency of ICAC's powers and responsibilities.

Earlier today in the District Court, legal argument occurred, which the legal fraternity suspects could now become a growing trend with ongoing ICAC matters before the courts. Lawyers for former public servant Brian Turner, accused by ICAC of mishandling $14 million, have now asked to look at evidence previously deemed not relevant by ICAC—even to the DPP.

My questions to the Attorney are: do you have full confidence in Ms Vanstone and her ability to lead ICAC, and do you have serious concerns over the failed history of ICAC and its now tarnished reputation?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:01): I thank the honourable member for his important questions and his well-known interest and advocacy in this area. I think anyone who followed the proceedings in the District Court last week in relation to the matter that was withdrawn from prosecution would hold concerns. These are serious issues. When you are talking about matters of upholding justice and the rule of law, I think it's reasonable that those who investigate and prosecute are held to the highest standard.

When the Director of Public Prosecutions discontinued the prosecutions in the Hanlon matter on 9 November last week, after being advised of the discontinuance I wrote to both the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, asking for an explanation of why the matter was discontinued and in relation to matters that were raised in court.

I note comments that the Hon. Frank Pangallo has referred to in the judge of the District Court's, I think third, judgement in relation to the matter, which makes reference to the gathering of evidence in a foreign jurisdiction. I have received some initial advice from the DPP and ICAC. We are now considering that initial advice and deciding what further information may be needed before deciding on a course of action.

Quite reasonably, there has been much media comment about this matter. I think the public expects that our institutions and our bodies need to conduct themselves with the highest probity so that everyone can have confidence in what they do. We won't be rushing to decide what the next steps are, but we will be considering the information that has been provided and what further information may need to be provided before we take any further steps.