Pittwater Life March 2018 Issue


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n The timing of the Commission

ties in with the government’s

agenda and the electoral


Royal Commissions have

wide-ranging powers and if

appearing before it, it is wise to

fully understand their extent.

The powers are found in the

relevant legislation – e.g. Royal

Commissions Act 1902 (Cth),

Royal Commissions Act 1923

(NSW), Inquiries Act 2014 (Vic),

the specific letters patent and

terms of reference for that

inquiry and any relevant practice


If called before an inquiry to

give evidence it should be considered

whether it represents

an opportunity to positively

engage with the Commission

and present draft recommendations

in the hope that they

appeal to the Commissioner

and be adopted and endorsed.

Unlike our Courts, the rules of

evidence do not necessarily


As someone who has appeared

before at least seven

Royal Commissions and Inquiries

over the years, representing

journalists and media interests,

the opportunity does not always

present. The Commission has

coercive statutory powers to

require witnesses to attend,

or documents to be produced

– documents in this instance

means all electronic records or

devices – an inevitability in so

far as journalists are concerned

goes to the issue of revealing

sources. The ever-present dilemma

is one of management of

this issue, as failure to address

it can mean the journalist and

their organisation being dealt

with for contempt.

The hearings of the Commission

are public hearings. Differing

from court proceedings,

the Commissioner and Counsel

Assisting will determine who

and in what order witnesses are

called to give evidence. Generally

corporations or business

entities seek to be legally represented,

as may individuals. This

is not an automatic right and is

at the discretion of the Commissioner.

An application for leave

to appear must be made to the

Commissioner in doing so this

may mean liaising with Counsel

Assisting the Commission and

lawyers for the Commission.

If you would like to participate

in a Commission, it is usually

open to interested parties to

provide a written submission or

participate in private hearings or

community or expert consultations.

A Royal Commission is not a

judicial body and cannot prosecute.

Findings made by a Royal

Commission are not binding on

any other body and have no authoritative

legal value. However,

a report from a Royal Commission

can have a substantial impact

on government and society.

It is likely that the banking

Royal Commission will attract

a large volume of submissions

and public interest. We await

with interest Commissioner

Hayne’s deliberations and report

in February 2019.

Comment supplied by

Jennifer Harris, of Jennifer

Harris & Associates, Solicitors,

4/57 Avalon Parade,

Avalon Beach.

T: 9973 2011. F: 9918 3290.

E: jennifer@jenniferharris.com.au

W: www.jenniferharris.com.au

Business Life

The Local Voice Since 1991

MARCH 2018 57

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