`Toothless tiger' on integrity

Bob McMahon
Bob McMahon

TASMANIA'S Integrity Commission is being dismissed as a toothless tiger after it ruled yesterday that it lacked the power to investigate misconduct complaints about the Bell Bay pulp mill.

The commission decided not to pursue any of the six allegations outlined in its report, half of which were found to be outside its role and function.

Acting chief executive Russell Pearce concluded that to adequately investigate such allegations of misconduct and impropriety ``the commission would require, at the very least, the ability to compel witnesses to answer questions and to produce information''.

He added that ``such a basic coercive power is vested in all similar agencies in other Australian jurisdictions''.

Bob McMahon, of anti-pulp mill group TAP, said he had expected such a result from a commission with powers that he described as inadequate.

``This was about testing the Integrity Commission and they were found utterly wanting,'' he said.

Bass Greens MHA Kim Booth said Parliament had set up the commission to help restore the trust of Tasmanians, and the report's findings were highly concerning.

``We may be looking at a toothless tiger . . . and if that means people now lose faith in the commission as well, that's worrying.''

Attorney-General Brian Wightman greeted the report with caution.

``I'll be considering it carefully before making any detailed comment,'' he said.

``(However) the Tasmanian Parliament has determined the commission's current powers, and the appropriate time for determining whether they are adequate will be at the three-year review in 2013.''

Nelson MLC Jim Wilkinson, who chairs a joint standing parliamentary committee on integrity, said he wasn't convinced there was any need for immediate action on the issues raised in the report, ``and if there was they would come to us and they haven't''.

The report grouped together and addressed all complaints put to the commission about the pulp mill planning and assessment process since it began operating in October 2010.