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Inquiries law reform

Hon Rick Barker
Minister of Internal Affairs

30 September 2008
Media Statement

Inquiries law reform

Two new types of inquiry are established under the Inquiries Bill, introduced to Parliament yesterday by Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker.

Public inquiries would be appointed by the Governor General to inquire into matters of significant public importance. Government inquiries would be appointed by, and report directly to, a minister and be used for smaller and more immediate issues.

The bill reforms and modernises the inquiries law and follows a Law Commission review. The new forms of inquiry would replace commissions of inquiry but Royal Commissions will be retained under the new law.

“Ministers considered the public perceived Royal Commissions to have greater gravitas than other types of inquiry,” Mr Barker said. “There are occasions where the appointment of a Royal Commission is necessary to provide assurance that a matter is being given serious, independent consideration.”

“The Law Commission saw the need for a flexible form of statutory inquiry that ministers can use for less complex, discrete issues that require independent investigation. The commission also considered current law is outdated and confusing and could add to the cost and delay of inquiries.”

Public and government inquiries will have the same legal powers and protections. The bill also:

• Sets out criteria for public access to inquiries and their documentation
• Provides for funding for legal representation for those participating in inquiries, if this is seen as warranted by an inquiry and its overseeing department
• Provides a range of sanctions to improve the ability to control behaviour surrounding inquiries and avoid abuses of their processes.

Some provisions of the Commissions of Inquiry Act will be retained in the interim because a number of statutory bodies draw their powers from that Act.

The government will welcome the public’s views on the Inquiries Bill during the select committee consideration of the bill.


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