House of Representatives, March 6 2023

Dr HAINES (Indi) (10:12): I’m proud to second this important bill, the Transparent and Quality Public Appointments Bill 2023, and I commend the member for Mackellar for shining a light on this pernicious problem, which is essentially a political loyalty award scheme rather than a legitimate appointment process for federal government positions. It’s time to stop this cronyism—this patronage for pals. Political appointments have grown substantially in the last five years, and many of these appointments are made on election eves. Across all federal government appointees, seven per cent have a direct political connection, and this figure rises to 21 per cent amongst those positions that are well paid, prestigious and powerful. Political stacking was so bad in the AAT, as the member has told us, that the Attorney-General, to his credit, has abolished it and is starting again. But both sides of politics, at state and federal levels, are guilty of slipping a sweet spot to a loyal mate—a former party MP, a staffer, a party member or even a failed candidate. Aside from fundamental morality, this matters because we are potentially missing out on the very best people.

Jobs for mates can constrain public policy. When political party loyalty is being rewarded, appointees are less likely to put forward policy recommendations and reforms that might rock the boat and that don’t align with party positions. This is a big problem, but 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. The people of Mackellar care, the member for Mackellar cares, and all of the crossbench care. Let’s get on and do it.

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