Chair's baptism of fire

by Chris Griffith
Published 5 July 1992 in The Sun-Herald


my face


It came, it went, and hardly anyone noticed.

It was new Electoral and Administrative Review Commission (EARC) chairman David Solomon's inaugural media conference, held amid the fallout following Richard Chesterman, QC's outburst against the CJC.

So consumed was Queensland with Police Commissioner Noel Newnham's future that few people bothered to notice the guard elsewhere had actually changed -- at that other Fitzgerald report-inspired commission.

Mr Solomon, in his first week, must have watched in bewilderment as lawyers unleashed their venom on his CJC counterpart, Sir Max Bingham. He must have prayed these experiences are not typical of the life of a Queensland commission chairman.

Fortunately for Mr Solomon, EARC is not the same beast as the CJC. It is not responsible for investigating official misconduct in Queensland's institutions, nor does it delve into the treacherous depths of the Queensland Police Service.

However, Mr Solomon's media conference was interesting on the issue of whether EARC should proactively monitor the implementation of its recommendations, as suggested by his predecessor, Tom Sherman.

Mr Sherman said: "If substantial implementation does not take place in a timely manner then there is an argument that EARC itself would have to take over a major scrutiny and accountability role, at least of a systemic nature."

He referred to the EARC Act, which allows the commission "to monitor implementation of reforms directed by the Governor in Council or authorised by an Act in relation to matters pertinent to the commission's functions, and to report in relation to such implementation."

Of course, Mr Sherman's comments were made at an EARC Parliamentary Committee hearing. They were, to some extent, also passing shots as he departed for his new job as chairman of the National Crimes Authority.

And Mr Solomon did acknowledge the role of monitoring included in the EARC Act. However, it is unclear whether EARC, under Mr Solomon, may wish to exercise this role.

We must wait for the EARC Parliamentary Committee's report to find out whether Mr Sherman's suggestion was taken seriously.

Whatever the outcome, one feels that special historic opportunity to bring about effective, long term reform in Queensland may already have passed.