ICAC’s Mt Barker verdict

Today, the legal conundrums of reporting the ICAC’s investigation into the Mt Barker rezoning, a good time to buy and a good time to sell, a hint at some big InDaily news, and much more.

Oct 23, 2015, updated Oct 23, 2015

ICAC legislation leads to bureaucratic Babushka doll

First the news: the ICAC investigated an aspect of the controversial Mt Barker rezoning and found no evidence of corruption.

This news came to light this week via utterly tortuous processes.

It’s been another example of how the pedantic legislation governing the ICAC continues to lead to bizarre, almost Monty Pythonesque (or maybe Utopia-like?) situations for the media, public officials, and the ICAC itself.

In 2013, in response to an Ombudsman’s report, the District Council of Mt Barker had asked for an ICAC or royal commission investigation into the procurement process for the growth areas report that occurred before the State Government’s 2010 rezoning decision.

The ICAC conducted an inquiry and, in June 2015, Commissioner Bruce Lander wrote to the council informing it of the results of his investigation.

However, a brief report on the matter only went to the council this week – including being published in the agenda online.

Before that could happen, however, the council had to request Lander’s permission to inform its own elected members of the matter.

This was because the ICAC legislation expressly forbids anyone to publish certain details of a complaint or investigation (that may tend to identify the subject of a complaint, for example) without the authorisation of the Commissioner.

A journalist from the excellent Mt Barker Courier newspaper, Lisa Pahl, went to the ICAC to ask for more information, after seeing the item on the agenda. Pahl was informed that the authority to publish was only for the council, but she was welcome to seek permission to do so. Which she did – and then was granted permission to publish the details contained in the council papers.

This columnist wanted to publish details of the circumstances surrounding the Courier’s article and InDaily was given permission to publish the information you are reading here.

The ICAC, as always in this columnist’s experience, was open and responsive to inquiries.

However, it is required by legislation to work through labyrinthine processes.

To summarise this case as succinctly as possible: the council had to seek permission to publish details to itself of the results of the ICAC inquiry that it had sought; the Courier had to seek permission to publish details of the council’s publication of the details; InDaily had to seek permission to publish the council’s publication of details, as well as the details of the subsequent publication in the Courier, despite the fact that both organisations had received their own permissions.

None of this, of course, is the ICAC’s fault – it’s dealing with the legislative hand it has been dealt by the State Government.

Some amendments have already been made to loosen the secrecy provisions – more may be in order.

A good time to sell, a good time to buy

These were the top headlines in The Advertiser’s real estate section yesterday.

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Surprise, surprise: good news for buyers and sellers!

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InDaily’s big news

Just a tease (sorry).

InDaily will make a significant leap forward from next Wednesday – in terms of functionality and ease of use of this website, and also in our media partnerships.

All will be revealed by visiting this website from about 12.30pm on Wednesday, or when you receive your subscriber email on that day (if you’re not a subscriber, sign up at the top right of this page – it’s free).

Naughty corner

There have been plenty of losers in the Federal Government’s tortuous “competitive evaluation process” to select our future submarines, but there is one clear winner – journalists.

A select few of Australia’s political and defence reporters have been treated to a world discovery tour by hopeful bidders for the work, spending quality time with companies and defence officials in Europe and Japan.

The Advertiser’s Tory Shepherd is in Japan this week (“courtesy of the Japanese Government”), and filed a story today with an “exclusive look” inside the Soryu sub.

Here’s the first paragraph: “In a clear sign of the high stakes, Japan has recalled a submarine from sea trials to give The Advertiser an exclusive tour inside as they dramatically boost efforts to win the Future Submarines project.”

Here’s the sixth paragraph: “Defence Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith, defence industry chief Chris Burns, and Defence SA chief executive Andy Keough were also given a tour of the Soryu yesterday, and of the Mitsubishi and Kawasaki shipyards in Kobe.”

It was good of the Tiser to let this motley crew onto its boat.

Top of the class

There’s an obvious winner this week – Four Corners’ eye-popping and stunningly candid insight into he bizarre world of former union boss Kathy Jackson and Fair Work Commission deputy chief Michael Lawler. It defies summary: read the transcript or watch it here, if you haven’t already.

And something extra for media junkies: Crikey has done an excellent retrospective of a young Malcolm Turnbull’s early journalism career at The Bulletin magazine (including a rather dismissive profile of a 20-year-old student politician by the name of Tony Abbott). Read it here (it’s paywalled, but you can sign up for a free trial).

Your columnist will be on leave for the next two Fridays. Media Week will return on November 13.

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